Scott Barnes, a two-time winner of the Manhattan Association of Cabarets' (MAC) Award for Best Director, passed away August 23 following a long illness. He was 68.
Born May 30, 1954, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was also raised, Mr. Barnes was a musical theatre aficionado who also knew all of the soprano operatic repertory. A 1972 graduate of Churchill High School, he attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music at a time when Kathleen Battle, Barbara Daniels, and Deborah Polaski were all doctoral students.
Upon graduation in 1976 with a BFA, Mr. Barnes went on to perform in theatres around the country, including those both on and Off-Broadway, later singing in six of the animated Disney films, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas. He was also featured in scores of TV commercials and print ads between 1977 and 1990.
Mr. Barnes later became one of the most sought-after directors in the New York cabaret scene, winning two MAC Awards for Best Director; he was nominated a total of five times.
He directed, managed, and publicized the late, legendary cabaret singers Nancy LaMott and Marianne Challis and also produced and/or directed 26 CDs for many of New York's leading cabaret artists. LaMott often remarked that her life changed when she met Barnes and his then-partner, composer David Friedman, in the early 90s. With long-time musical director Christopher Marlowe, the foursome would release five recordings before her untimely death in 1995: Beautiful Baby, Come Rain or Come Shine: The Songs of Johnny Mercer, My Foolish Heart, Just in Time for Christmas, and Listen to My Heart. It was also during this time when LaMott's career, under the guidance of Mr. Barnes, soared, with sold-out cabaret engagements around the country, numerous TV appearances, and two evenings performing at the White House for President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As a writer, Mr. Barnes penned dozens of features for Opera News, including cover articles and reviews, as well as opinion pieces on operatic acting, English diction for American singers, and his most unforgettable operatic performances.
In the summer 2015, Mr. Barnes was a faculty member for Aprile Millo’s Opera Vision Academy in Italy. In July 2017 he joined the faculty of Michael Paul’s Academia Lirica Internazionale d’Ischia, also in Italy. And, for the past several seasons he judged several of opera’s top singing competitions, including the Gerda Lissner, Puccini Foundation, Giulio Gari, Veronica Dunne (NYC and Wexford), AVA’s Giargiari, Loren L. Zachary Society, and Opera at Florham.
As a Councilor at Actors' Equity from 1988 through 1999, Mr. Barnes was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, serving until his death. Mr. Barnes also sat on the Board of the Gerda Lissner Foundation.
Mr. Barnes was married to writer Brian Kellow, who passed away in 2018, and he was also pre-deceased by his parents, Dr. Robert Barnes and wife Jean Barnes, as well as his older brother Bobby.
Donations in Mr. Barnes' memory can be made to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.