I Love the Nightlife

Cabaret is alive and well in NYC.

Alan Cumming, who won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for the Broadway revival of “Cabaret,” now has his own cabaret and bar in the East Village. (Courtesy Club Cumming)

MENTION THE WORDS “a night on the town” to most visitors—or even most New Yorkers—and they’ll immediately talk about which Broadway show, which trendy cocktail lounge or which restaurant du jour they are planning to check out. While I’m not disparaging any of these fine options, I always counter with “Have you considered checking out a cabaret?” Far from a dying art form, cabaret has expanded to include all sorts of music, from traditional standards to pop, burlesque and jazz. Better yet, you’re always up close and personal. And, best of all, there are now plenty of places and spaces around to suit every taste, budget and sartorial fancy. 

Natalie Douglas at Birdland. (Bill Westmoreland)


This revered Midtown club recently expanded to two levels with a cozy downstairs theater, giving dedicated patrons the opportunity to see as many as three shows a night (and to indulge in some fine food and drink while there). You probably can’t go wrong no matter who you choose to see, but surefire bets include the club’s popular open-mic “Cast Party,” hosted by Jim Caruso, which occurs every Monday and often features surprise appearances from some of the world’s biggest stars (Liza! Chita!); the Tuesday night variety show “The Lineup,” hosted by the hilarious Susie Mosher; the sublime Natalie Douglas, Birdland’s reigning queen, whose “tribute” show to Barbra Streisand (Oct. 28) is a guaranteed wow; and such jazz superstars as bassist Ron Carter (Oct. 15-26), singer Gabrielle Stravelli (Oct. 25-26), and guitarists Jay Leonhart (Oct. 26) and Frank Vignola (Nov. 7-9). 315 W. 44th St., 212.581.3080, birdlandjazz.com 

Herb Alpert at Café Carlyle. (David Andrako)

Café Carlyle

The most elegant—and expensive—of all New York City cabarets still asks men to wear jackets (often accompanied by women wearing the chicest of possible ensembles), features a menu that includes such supernal delicacies as lobster bisque, foie gras terrine and caviar, and remains renowned throughout the world for its stunning and colorful music-themed murals created by French artist Marcel Vertès. In recent years, though, the club’s programming has strayed, at times, from its ultra-traditional history to include acts like country great Wynonna Judd and husband Cactus Moser (Oct. 15-19) and award-winning actress/singer Mare Winningham (Oct. 29-Nov. 2). Still, it’s two married couples who really rule this regal roost season after season: guitarist extraordinaire John Pizzarelli and sultry singer Jessica Molaskey (Nov. 5-9, 12-16) and music legend Herb Alpert and singer Lani Hall (Nov. 19-23, 26-30). 35 E. 76th St., 800.405.2027, cafecarlylenewyork.com

Club Cumming

This two-year-old club, the brainchild of award-winning actor Alan Cumming and nightlife impresario Daniel Nardicio, has quickly become the go-to-spot for seekers of great music in a less buttoned-up setting than many of Gotham’s more staid venues. Crowds definitely flock to “Mondays in the Club with Lance,” a fantastic open-mic evening led by the multitalented Lance Horne. Starting this month, the show is now preceded by a new weekly series called “Club Cumming Cabaret” that features some of the city’s best up-and-coming talent. Do come! 505 E. 6th St., 917.265.8006, clubcummingnyc.com

Burlesque at Duane Park. (Courtesy Duane Park)

Duane Park

This unusual Downtown hot spot is the must-go spot for lovers of burlesque, thanks to such provocative and provocatively titled shows as “Soulesque,” “The Sweetest Taboo,” “Tease ohhh Rama” and “Pandora’s Box.” Happily, the performers are just as “delicious” as the club’s extensive menu, which ranges from warm duck confit and crispy Vermont goat cheese to sumac-dusted Nova Scotia salmon and red-wine-braised short ribs. In short, you’ll be licking your lips from the moment you sit down to the second you leave. 308 Bowery, 212.732.5555, duaneparknyc.com

Feinstein’s/54 Below. (Courtesy Feinstein’s/54 Below)

Feinstein’s/54 Below

Since opening its doors in 2012, this spectacularly designed supper club (by Tony Award winner John Lee Beatty) has become one of New York’s most valued nightlife resources, combining a slate of Broadway bigwigs, innovative tributes and vivacious variety shows with a delightful menu of specialty cocktails and irresistible eats. (Trust me, the fabled bacon mac ’n’ cheese is worth every calorie and the french fries are better than McDonald’s.) Incandescent Broadway superstar and multiple Tony winner Chita Rivera closes out her gig (Oct. 15-16), after which the marvelous Marilyn Maye, one of the house’s most beloved acts, returns for another sure-to-be-sold-out engagement (Oct. 17-26). Meanwhile, other great shows to consider include Bonnie Milligan and Natalie Walker (Oct. 30-31), Carole J. Bufford (Nov. 2), Ryan McCartan (Nov. 4 and 11), Lainie Kazan (Nov. 6), Melissa Errico (Nov. 7-9) and Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell (Nov. 12-23). You’ll leave 54 Below on a high, believe me! 254 W. 54th St., cellar, 646.476.3551, 54below.com

The Green Room 42. (Courtesy The Green Room 42)

The Green Room 42

Tucked away in the back of the fourth floor of the Yotel hotel, this beautiful boîte provides everything you really want in a cabaret: affordable yet yummy food and drink (I love the flatbreads and burger), excellent sound and sight lines wherever you sit, and an almost dizzying array of acts, many of which are favorites of the under-40 crowd. For example, Reeve Carney (Oct. 20 and Nov. 17) has made this place his home-away-from-home as has his co-star in the Broadway musical “Hadestown” Eva Noblezada (Oct. 27 and Nov. 11). So have pop/jazz crooner Spencer Day (Nov. 2) and rising star Mark William who sings from the Great American Songbook (Nov. 22). No matter your age, though, the Green Room 42 is a perfect 10! 570 10th Ave., 646.707.2900, thegreenroom42.com


This belowground Times Square club, which initially gained fame as the performing home of the late, great guitarist Les Paul, boasts a relaxed vibe, solid comfort food and an unusually large gamut of eclectic acts, including 1970s heartthrob Gino Vannelli (Oct. 16-17), songstress Macy Gray (Oct. 20-21), the Harlem Blues Project (Oct. 24 and Nov. 12) and the Ed Palermo Big Band (Oct. 28). There is truly something for everyone here! 

Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. (Kevin Yatarola)

Joe’s Pub

Sure, the seating may be a little snug at this gorgeous space inside the venerated Public Theater, but it’s never too close for comfort. And, as is typical of the Public, the programming is among the most adventurous and satisfying in New York. Upcoming highlights include the one-and-only Penny Arcade (Oct. 15 and 24), Bridget Everett and the Tender Moments (Oct. 25-26), Joey Arias singing “Halloween Lullabies” (Oct. 30); The Rocky Horror Skivvies Show (Oct. 31), Sophie B. Hawkins (Nov. 1) and former “SNL” star Julia Sweeney performing her one-person comedy, “Older & Wider,” (Nov. 3). Go Joe! 425 Lafayette St., 212.967.7555, publictheater.org

Andrea Marcovicci and Jeff Harnar at the New York Cabaret Convention. (Courtesy the New York Cabaret Convention)

The New York Cabaret Convention

Hands down, the most amazing way to take in the ultimate in NYC’s cabaret scene is to spend four nights at Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center (located on the fifth floor of the Time Warner Center) for the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s annual New York Cabaret Convention (Oct. 28-31). Over 50 incredible entertainers perform during this year’s event, including the ever-extraordinary Andrea Marcovicci and handsome Jeff Harnar (co-hosting a tribute to Frank Loesser), Karen Akers, Christine Andreas, Liz Callaway, Darius de Haas, Tovah Feldshuh, Karen Mason, KT Sullivan … and the beat (and the list) goes on. Broadway and W. 60th St., 212.721.6500, mabelmercer.org

The cast of “Forbidden Broadway—The Next Generation” at The Triad. (Carol Rosegg)

The Triad

Perfect for those living or staying on the Upper West Side, The Triad has the feel of an old-fashioned café (albeit with drinks and a light menu of pizza, popcorn and french fries) and offers a one-of-a-kind mix of theater and musical acts. Make sure to catch the latest edition of Gerard Alessandrini’s hysterical “Forbidden Broadway” series, which pokes not-so-gentle fun of the latest offerings on the Great White Way (through Nov. 30). 158 W. 72nd St., 212.362.2590, triadnyc.com