When it rains cabaret, it pours cabaret, and for some reason the first two week of April this year are set to be a cabaret downpour. If you don't get out to cabaret as much as you should—and really, you should!—this is a good time to fix that. Here are a baker's dozen of your most exciting options in the next two weeks, from idiosyncratic downtown acts to rising musical-theater talents. Believe it or not, there are many other good choices as well; for more upcoming cabaret shows we recommend, consult our fuller list of the best cabaret shows in New York.
Poor Baby Bree (Pangea, Apr 3)
To watch Poor Baby Bree is to experience an exquisite sense of showbiz déjà vu. Incarnated with otherworldly intensity by Bree Benton, this ageless waif shares long-forgotten, deeply sentimental songs and stories from the vaudeville era with heartbreaking and hilarious directness. Her appearances are all too rare these days; this one is presented by Tweed's Happy Cry Pretty! series.
Christina Bianco: Me, Myself & Everyone Else! (Birdland, Apr 3)
Bianco is a comic firecracker with a pyrotechnic voice and a great gift for mimicry, which broke her out when a video of her performing "Total Eclipse of the Heart"—as sung by 19 different divas—went megaviral. In her return to Birdland, the petite performer takes on more of the biggest songs ever.
Carole J. Bufford: You Don’t Own Me—The Fearless Females of the 1960s (Feinstein's/54 Below, Apr 4–July 6)
Bufford is one of cabaret's brightest rising stars, with a distinctive, bluesy voice and a flair for the theatrical. Her new set, devoted to songstresses of the 1960s, features tunes associated with such era definers as Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, Carole King, Lesley Gore, Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey.
Bebe Buell: Baring It All (Joe's Pub; Apr 4, 5)
Buell's list of past beaux includes Steven Tyler, Todd Rundgren, Elvis Costello, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Jimmy Page; she is Liv Tyler's mom, a 1974 Playboy centerfold model, the partial inspiration for Almost Famous character Penny Lane and—wouldn't you know—a musician. (The Cars served as her backing band on her 1981 debut EP.) Now she's back onstage to share war tales from her years as one of rock & roll's most popular muses.
Gay Marshall: Gay's Paree (Pangea, Apr 5)
An American who has spent much of her life in Paris, the bohemian-styled Marshall applies her big, emotional, stubbornly resilient voice to chansons by Charles Aznavour, Boris Vian, Francis Lemarque, Dave Frishberg, Jacques Brel and her spirit sparrow, Edith Piaf.
Varla Jean Merman: A Little White Music (Feinstein's/54 Below; Apr 5, 6)
The cheerily trashy and very funny Varla Jean Merman (né Jeffery Roberson) has combined retro glamour, lovable midwestern dizziness and gentle raunch for more than two decades. Now she pitches camp at 54 Below with an all-new show.
Tammy Faye Starlite: It Was a Pleasure Then (Pangea, Apr 6–May 11)
The hilarious, persona-shifting Starlite pays tribute to glacial German singer Nico, whose bored baritone vocals added eerie Continental glamour to the first Velvet Underground album. In this concert, she performs all of Nico's LP Chelsea Girl—which features notable songs by Lou Reed, Jackson Brown and Bob Dylan—to mark the recording's 50th anniversary.
Jeremy Lawrence: Lavender Songs—A Queer Cabaret in Weimar Berlin (Pangea, Apr 8–June 19)
Lawrence revives his award-winning 2008 survey of queer-themed cabaret songs from the Weimar Era, including material by Friedrich Hollaender, Mischa Spoliansky and Rudolf Nelson. (The English translations are by Lawrence himself.) Performed in a period drag persona and sung without a microphone, the show is intimate, illuminating and surprisingly moving.
Nellie McKay: A Girl Named Bill (Le Poisson Rouge, Apr 10)
Fearless singer-songwriter McKay is always guaranteed to flabber your gast with her witty, unwieldy and beguiling performances. Her themed sets are especially bonkers (in a wonderful way); this one, first performed in 2014, employs original songs and a wide range of covers to explore the life of secretly transgender jazz bandleader Billy Tipton.
Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt: Nancy And Beth (Joe's Pub; Apr 10, May 9)
Sitcom royal Mullally (Will & Grace) joins forces and blends voices with young actor-singer Hunt in the guise of a bespectacled folk duo called Nancy And Beth. Their current national tour promotes their self-titled debut album, which includes songs by Lou Rawls, Leiber and Stoller, Rufus Wainwright and Wynona Carr.
David Yazbek (Feinstein's/54 Below, Apr 10)
Yazbek wrote the scores for Broadway's The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; on his own, he plays what he calls "challenging pop." His music is full of bouncy riffs and hooks, as well as nasty-naughty humor. For his April set at 54 Below, he is joined by the band from his excellent Middle East–themed 2016 musical, The Band's Visit.
Jarrod Spector and Kelli Barrett: Look at It My Way (Feinstein's/54 Below, Apr 11–16)
Broadway stars Barrett (Doctor Zhivago) and Spector (Beautiful) offer a he-sang-she-sang account of their courtship and marriage in a new show that incorporates songs by Prince, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, REO Speedwagon and the Beatles.
Dane Terry: Jupiter's Lifeless Moons (The Duplex, Apr 12)
An outrageously talented singer-songwriter, Terry melds a cracked country-pop sensibility with smart lyrics, yielding snapshots of twisted Americana that sometimes suggest a queer millennial Randy Newman. He's the realest deal in town. Now the 2016 Ethyl Eichelberger Award winner shares a new song cycle about an unsettling winter in Cleveland. [Note: Due to a death in the family, this performance has been canceled.]