10 Future Stars From NYC’s Nightlife Scene

Cabaret crushers. Drag stars. Puppeteering prodigies. Michael Musto picks cult performers who are on the verge of serious stardom.

Kenyon Phillips / Photo by Greg Vaughan

Are you the type who fast-forwards through movies to see what’s going to happen? Then get yourself immediately to the New York City nightlife and cabaret scene, where you can witness a bevy of performers who will undoubtedly be big in the future. The performance spaces—from quirky to iconic—are where these entertainers work out their stuff, try out new material, and become seasoned stars on the road to even more exciting prospects. Here are 10 future icons you can, and should, catch now.

Amber Martin

One of the scene’s brightest lights is this lady with the powerful voice, the great comic chops, and the endless drive to entertain. At spots like Club Cumming—and spaces in cities from New Orleans to Adelaide, Australia—she’s trotted out her gifts, specializing in doling out spoofy homages to divas like Bette Midler and Reba McEntire. She deserves to be in the same league.

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Photo courtesy of Amber Martin

Honey Davenport

New York City is awash in drag queens, some better than others, but one of the most tireless and reliable is Honey, who can lip-synch, sing live, effortlessly twirl—and even looks great as a man. Honey did well in an off-Broadway musical called Trinkets, about sex workers in the Meatpacking District in the 1990s (the show premiered last year), and she’s clearly destined for a career beyond the watering holes.

Bridget Everett

A great singer with major pipes from Manhattan, Kansas, Everett has been blowing up the scene for years with her aggressively sexy, full-throttle song spoofs and comedy. Amy Schumer took notice and has included her in projects, and on The Tonight Show last year, Everett got a standing ovation for ripping into the Janis Joplin hit “Piece of My Heart” with bravado. What’s more, around the same time, she filmed an Amazon pilot for a very dark sitcom called Love You More. Everyone assumed that would be her entry to the next level, but surprisingly, the show wasn’t picked up. My prediction: Her next one will be.

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Photo courtesy of Bridget Everett

Molly Pope

Pope may have been born too late, but we’re still thrilled to have her. Blessed with the voice of a young Ethel Merman, she can trumpet out a song with the best of them, and she has great taste in standards and classics, able to trot out a tremulous Judy Garland–like sound. She has done musical theater, and it might be in that arena where her big break comes. Whatever the case, it should come somewhere, because she is quite simply one of the best vocalists around.

Rob Roth

Roth is a performer, writer, director, visual artist, editor, and everything else you can think of. Having worked with Debbie Harry and Lady Gaga, he’s currently scaring up a multimedia show with Rebecca Hall called Soundstage, which is described as a “live theater and film hybrid.” He also does a Cocteau-esque melancholy wolf-man character named Craig—and he can sing, too.

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Rob Roth / Photo by Paula Court

Cole Escola

The Oregon-born comic is a deadpan audience favorite, filled with dark wit and wackiness. With Jeffery Self, he had a cult-y comedy show on Logo, and he played Matthew on Difficult People, but major stardom hasn’t come yet. It’s just a matter of time.

Kenyon Phillips

At clubs like Joe’s Pub and Rockwood Music Hall, Phillips doesn’t just sing songs. He guides the audience through an edgy narrative while presenting a theatricality-filled evening of laughs and pathos. He’s often backed by an all-girl band, the Ladies in Waiting, and accompanied by guest stars like Lance Breakfast and Cady Huffman, all of whom help the result go way beyond anything resembling run-of-the-mill cabaret.

Kenyon Phillips / Photo by Greg Vaughan

Catherine Cohen

A kind of nouveau Midler, Cohen embraces her otherness and her big-city neuroses for funny and well-sung cabaret performances. Accompanied by pianist Henry Koperski, she enters shows singing, “Boys never wanted to kiss me/So now I do comedy/Look at me, look at me, look at me!” It’s impossible not to look.

Basil Twist

A third-generation puppeteer from San Francisco, Twist does extraordinary work, from his eye-popping, swirling show Symphonie Fantastique—which has returned to Here this summer—to Arias With a Twist, his head-spinning collaboration with singer Joey Arias. Twist has done puppets for Pee-wee Herman’s Broadway show and The Addams Family musical, but he deserves his own Broadway extravaganza, which, in a perfect world, would lead to a TV series aimed at kids of all ages.

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Basil Twist / Photo by Brandon Hardy

Cheyenne Elliott

If all goes according to plan, Dionne Warwick’s granddaughter should brace herself for a career like Granny’s. Performing at the Duplex last year, Elliott exhibited a voice that could effortlessly go from a whisper to a belt, and presented material that was heavy on Broadway but also included original material, plus a cover of Warwick’s hit “Déjà Vu” (as her grandmother sat there, beaming). Elliott also seems possessed by realness and vulnerability, which makes her even more appealing. The last famous relative I predicted would become a big star was Whitney Houston.