- CHARITY BENEFIT
Article by Sandi Durell
The Mabel Mercer Foundation celebration continues at Rose Hall home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. The first half of the evening, hosted by Andrea Marcovicci, was somewhat uneven, but there were highlights like the glamorous, sparkly Karen Oberlin, accompanied by Tedd Firth, with “I’ll Be Hard to Handle” a Jerome Kern song from the movie Swing Time. A very amusing spin on “Teaching Third Grade” from Ruthless was a winner for Amy Beth Williams. The rich jazz vocals of a very real Natalie Douglas soared on Mark Hartman’s brilliant arrangement of “The Best is Yet to Come.”
Act 2 was hosted by the lovely KT Sullivan and devoted to The Songs That Maggie Sang: A Tribute to Margaret Whiting. Gathered were some of today’s great interpreters of song beginning with the mellow tones of Joyce Breach’s “Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” and “Not Exactly Paris” written by Mickey Leonard for Margaret. KT provided “The Lies of Handsome Men,” with a knowing twinkle in her eye; written by Francesca Blumenthal. Ronny Whyte was on hand singing and playing a smooth “All In Fun,” (Hammerstein & Kern) followed by “I’m Old Fashioned.”
Many of the great American songwriters wrote their songs and came to Margaret Whiting to try them out, to debut and/or record them. As the daughter of Richard Whiting, famed songwriter, she had an extraordinary life, being noticed early on as a singer. She knew them all: Johnny Mercer (who mentored Margaret and signed her to one of Capitol’s first recording contracts), Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, and was known as a wonderful interpreter of American popular songs, debuting some of the most beautiful songs ever written. She especially loved the songs of Kern and Mercer. Margaret passed away in January of this year.
The Tribute continued as singers related wonderful and warm personal stories about Maggie like Amanda McBroom, who was mentored by Maggie, and sang one of her chestnuts “Moonlight in Vermont.” She followed with the beautiful “My Favorite Year” written by her amazingly talented accompanist Michele Brourman.
For the second night in a row, young rising talent Jennifer Sheehan received the first Margaret Whiting Award and was more than touched by the occasion. Closely watching the festivities from the audience was Margaret’s daughter, Debbie Whiting.
The incomparable Ann Hampton Callaway was a home run as she wailed on “Blues in the Night” and continued with her clever create a song routine where audience members call out words she then puts into song. After summoning the Magical Muse of Words & Rhyme, she put together a clever, funny song about Maggie that made lots of sense!
She then introduced the great interpreter of song, the marvelous Marilyn Maye who proceeded to show everyone what it’s all about with Arlen-Mercer’s “You’re Clear Out of This World” and a dramatically definitive “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Topping off the night, the two sassy divas received standing ovations with “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”
The fun continues tonight, October 22nd.
**Photos courtesy of Maryann Lopinto