Lights flicker on Broadway, but cabaret fills nights


NEW YORK -- As if the normal pursuit of putting on a Broadway show isn't enough to send one to the snake pit, there's even more reason for one to tear out one's hair when a strike is on. Although the Broadway stagehands strike has thrown wrenches into the plans for the openings of numerous incoming shows (i.e. last week's scheduled raise of the curtain at the Imperial on the much-praised, much-anticipated "August: Osage County" from Steppenwolf in Chicago; "The Farnsworth Invention" at the Music Box; "The Seafarer" at the Booth; et al.), a few optimistic souls continue forging ahead. The revival of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming," still aiming for a Dec. 13 opening at the Cort with Ian McShane, Michael McKean and Eve Best, directed by Daniel Sullivan, offered a one-time-only run-through prevue of a rehearsal Sunday at the off-Broadway (and nonstrike terrain) New World Stages, free but with an appeal for donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Plans for legiters like David Mamet's new "November" -- with Nathan Lane and directed by Joe Mantello -- aiming for a Jan. 17 opening at the Ethel Barrymore haven't slowed down, either. Rehearsals began Monday as originally intended. ... Tonight, Michael Feinstein begins his annual Christmas show at Feinstein's at Loews Regency, which runs through Dec. 29 with Feinstein doing a mix of holiday songs, contemporary standards and mini-tributes to Tony Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby and Kay Thompson. Speaking of Thompson, Michael F. also is in the process of producing a Liza Minnelli album based on Thompson's music. She was not only a genius-style music arranger, singer and author (and co-star of a favorite movie musical of the 1950s, "Funny Face") but also was Liza's godmother. ... There's no dearth of first-string cabaret entertainers available in town this holiday season. Andrea Marcovicci is in the midst of a nine-week run at the Oak Room of the Algonquin, Steve Tyrell is at the Cafe Carlyle through New Year's Eve and, at least for two more dates, Wednesday and Dec. 5, Charles Cochran is at the Metropolitan Room. ... Up until recently, Cochran thought of himself as "a gentleman in retirement," happily relaxing, not in "a cozy little flat in old Manhattan," as per the Rodgers and Hart lyric, but in a comfortable home in the shade of several palm trees in West Palm Beach. From the 1950s through most of the '80s, he had been one of the indefatigable saloon singers/cabaret entertainers in venues from the West to the East, constantly on the move, hitting the keyboards, singing the notes in his distinctive way and acquiring fans and friendships which ran the gamut from Judy Garland (a frequent house guest with whom he shared many a boozy, all-night singing session) to Fred Astaire (who put C.C. under contract to Fred's Ava record label) to jazz singer Anita O'Day and beyond. In 1987, for all intents and purposes, Cochran called it a day. But now he's back, at least occasionally, and has never been better -- looking great, sounding superb and with the distinctive seasoning of a fine-tuned pro, which puts him in the rarefied "endangered species" category. He must never be allowed to go sit among those palm trees again, at least not for any length of time. Today's cabaret world needs him. Meanwhile, a visit to the Metropolitan Room while he's performing there is one of the best pre-Christmas gifts you could give yourself.