rambling reporter

Many swingin' reasons to come to the cabaret

Cabaret in New York, like the Broadway theater scene, is definitely alive and kicking these days. Maybe it's not like the bygone eras we've heard about — when every hotel in town had a swanky room where the crooners, the chantoozies and the fancy orchestras held forth — but anyone with a full wallet and an appetite for seeing name entertainers in intimate settings (as opposed to, say, watching a belter in such gargantuan arenas as Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the like) has no reason for complaint. Tonight, for example, Betty Buckley, she of the extraordinary pipes, begins a two-week run at Feinstein's at the Regency, to be followed by Jackie Mason (April 10-21) in what he's calling an all-new, pre-Broadway comedy workout. After that comes Donny Osmond (April 24-28), Linda Eder (May 1-12), Peter Gallagher in his Feinstein's debut (May 12-June 2) and then the man himself, Michael Feinstein, doing a tribute (June 5-16) to the man who dominated this town's cabaret scene for so many years, the late Bobby Short. Gallagher, lest you forgot, starred and sang (and very well, too) in the 1992 Broadway revival of "Guys and Dolls." … Meanwhile, that same room at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue also keeps the music going Sunday and Monday nights, its headliners this season including Jeff Harnar, Eileen Fulton and Cristina Fontanelli. … Elsewhere in the city, Keely Smith will be making her first appearance from April 3-28 at Short's old stomping ground, the Cafe Carlyle on Madison Avenue, where, not incidentally, Woody Allen appears Monday nights through June 11 with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band. … At the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler are the current drawing cards with an act devoted to the words and music of the great Betty Comden and Adolph Green. In the same room, from April 17-May 12, Karen Akers takes over, her eighth spring engagement there, this time singing the songs of Jule Styne. … Smaller venues such as the Metropolitan Room and the Hideaway Room @ Helen's also are hopping; at the latter, singer Richard Holbrook will be reprising a show Sunday and April 4 that he did last year called "Manhattan on My Mind … Again." But all this activity is but a tip of the iceberg; one never knows where you'll run into a cabaret show or performer these days. On Wednesday, for example, Holbrook will give a sampling of his Hideaway act as part of a Wednesday concert series at the Lincoln Center branch of Barnes & Noble. … The New York critics gave a basically frosty reception to Kander & Ebb's breezy, helium-weight musical "Curtains" at the Al Hirschfeld. By contrast, I found it a thoroughly entertaining antidote to what's facing us every night on CNN. It's worth the price of a ticket just to hear Jason Danieley sing an exceptionally beautiful new K&E song, "I Miss the Music"; there's also one called "Show People" that could easily become a showbiz anthem as popular and regularly resurrected as Berlin's "There's No Business Like Show Business" and Comden & Green's "That's Entertainment."