Michael Feinstien’s American Popular Song Series

October 8, 2010

OK, I’ve TiVoed the first episode, but I haven’t watched “Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook” yet.  But it looks great.  Here’s the Times review.


Critics on Michael Feinstein & Barbara Cook

September 9, 2010

Critics weigh in on the pairing of Michael Feinstein and Barbara Cook at Feinstein’s at the Regency.

Stephen Holden in the NYTimes: “When Barbara Cook sighs the word in the opening phrases of “Cheek to Cheek,” the title song of her duet show with Michael Feinstein, you really feel as if she had just found paradise. And so have you.”

Frank Scheck in the NYPost: “It was Michael Feinstein’s 54th birthday Tuesday night, but it was the audience at his namesake nightclub that received the present.

“It came in the form of “Cheek to Cheek,” the new show co-starring the fabulous Barbara Cook. Like his previous collaborations with Cheyenne Jackson and David Hyde Pierce, it shows that Feinstein plus one is greater than the sum of its parts — his shortlived outing with Dame Edna being a notable exception.”


Ben Brantley on Michael Feinstein & Dame Edna

March 19, 2010

The NYTimes reviews the duo’s Broadway outing: “In “All About Me,” which opened on Thursday night, this most dominating of dames is given what feels like less than half a chance. The production also stars Michael Feinstein, the celebrated piano-playing crooner who possesses considerable gifts of his own. But they are of an entirely different stripe from the brasher talents commanded by Dame Edna. Seen side by side, in a production that brings to mind a desperately assembled television variety show from the 1970s, these two headliners clash like polka dots paired with plaid.”


Semi-together…

March 18, 2010

Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna at Sardi’s. The two are co-starring in the Broadway show “All About Me.”Before I saw All About Me, the new revue pairing Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna, I stopped in to one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall pseudo-Japanese restaurants for a California roll and katsu-don.  After the show, I had a slice of cheesecake from Juniors. And it occured to me that a California roll cheesecake was the sort of experience the show offered.

Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna are two gifted performers who do what they do very well.  However, there is no earthly reason for them to be appearing together, and sadly they come off as less than the sum of their parts.  The pixalated charm of Feinstein is an uneasy blend with the aggressive iconoclasm of Dame Edna.  The concept, that each performer has contracted the theater for a solo show called All About Me, is as annoying as it is far-fetched.  Neither performer has enough time to really get a toe-hold on the evening to establish any performance momentum (although Feinstein, at least when he gets to finish a song, seems to get more traction.)

The set for the show is obviously going for a 60’s variety show feel, but only succeeds in looking cheap.  A stage manager character and chorus boys while featuring charming performers feel totally unnecesary.  And interestingly, several songs listed in the program do not appear on-stage.

One of the show’s saving graces is the terrific band led by Rob Bowman.  People who remember Bowen from his terrific work in DC in the ’80’s** will be happy to know that he looks terrific and still has that terrific mane of blond hair.

*OK, dear readers, I have to admit a little fib.  I thought of the analogy during the show.  But in the interest of journalistic integrity, I went to Juniors and got a slice of cheescake on my way back.

**My favorite memory is of Bowman in a red flannel nightshirt and cap during “Robin Baxter’s Chainsaw Christmas” in the old Wooley Mammoth space.

***I really wanted to title this post “Does Tomato Sauce Really Go Great With Chow Mien,” but felt that was one food reference too many.


A saga of two divas…

February 21, 2010

Very dishy column by Michael Riedel about backstage life on the upcoming show, All About Me, starring that non-obvious pairing of Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna: 

“Feinstein is miffed that he’s being relegated to the sidelines by Edna’s shenanigans, which are threatening to run away with the show.

“”Michael’s not laughing at the jokes Edna’s making about him,” a source says. “He’s upset that everything she does upstages him.”

“Well, what, for God’s sake, did he expect?”

 

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Michael Feinstein Interview in Playbill.com

February 11, 2010

Great interview and narrated slideshow iwth Michael Feinstein in Playbill.com: 

My previous manager asked me what I wanted to achieve in my career that I hadn’t. I told him that I had a fantasy of having a nightclub but was mindful of the fact that every entertainer I knew who had a nightclub had not been successful, from Bobby Short to Julie Wilson to Chita Rivera. He suggested approaching the Regency Hotel because I had played private events for the Tisch family, which owns it, and liked them a great deal, and they were very receptive to opening a club. Because of their interest we were able to open Feinstein’s. And it’s been 10 years now.


Michael Feinstein on Jewish Christmas Songs

December 20, 2009

Op-Ed piece in the NYTimes by Michael Feinstein on reactions to Christmas songs by Jewish songwriters: ”

In my holiday shows, I’m always looking for novel expressions of the season, and when I introduce a new song I don’t usually think about the religion of its creator. That said, I’m always pleased to discover a surprising juxtaposition. It doesn’t take Freud to figure out that the sugarplums, holly and mistletoe all tap into a sense of comfort, longing, security and peace that so many fervently desire; that we all wish the clichés were true. As Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists and everything in between, we are all more alike than we are different. That’s something to celebrate.”

BTW, here’s the Times review of his holiday show.


Michael Feinstein in the Blade

November 9, 2009

The current issue of the Washington Blade has an interview with Michael Feinstein (whose publicity photos get younger each year): “ “When I started getting some acclaim for what I do, I noticed that reviewers would say that he’s not afraid to be sensitive, and I understood what they meant. I’m a male singer who has never been afraid to express vulnerability or express a sensitive side. Or even a feminine side if it’s appropriate for the song. My job as an interpreter is to bring through the intentions of the writer or to find a point of view that resonates with what they wrote. And I absolutely believe all my life experiences, including my sexuality, add resonance to my interpretations.”


CDs from Michael Feinstein & Cheyenne Jackson and

October 31, 2009

Feinstein  jacksonThe two leads of the recently opened Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow each has a new CD.

Thanks to my friend Jim who is working the show, I got an advanced copy of the new  disc Cheyenne Jackson has of his recent cabaret outing with Michael Feinstein, The Power of Two.

Actually “outing” is an appropriate description for this recording, since the theme of the show seems to be the collaboration of two gay men.  (In cabaret? Imagine!)

There is a deliberate effort to sing classic songs with honest uses of pronouns vis a vis the performers.  Interestingly, Feinstein re-records Old Friend from this re-focused perspective, singing “… and she wonders at my taste in men..” as opposed to the “… taste in friends…” that he sang on his first recording in the 80’s.  We also hear that gay-piano-bar-of-an-era chestnut We Kiss in a Shadow. 

The songs are well sung, very personal, with terrific arrangements by the great John Oddo. But when the gay undertones on numbers like the Sinatra / Davis  arrangement of Me and My Shadow become overtones, I have to say that a bunch of charm is lost.  Ditto You’re Nothing Without Me from City of Angels — especially the cringe-inducing “you’re the master and I’m just a dog” lyric.  On the other hand, it was wonderful to be reminded of the terrific Marshall Barer / Michael Leonard song The Time Has Come — a bossa nova anthem that should be played at every same-sex wedding (I know I want it at mine).

I will say that without the benefit of the patter from the live show, I get confused by the vibe on the CD.  The songs themselves skirt the line between friendship and romance, and to my limited knowledge, Feinstein and Jackson have other partners.  On the other hand, when a genetically unrelated male and female share a stage, there’s always a presumption of romance, even if the duo is George Burns and Goldie Hawn.  So perhaps this is another way of questioning our perceptions and assumptions.

  • I’m Nothing Without You (Cy Colman/David Zippel)/Michael & Cheyenne
  • Me and My Shadow (Dave Dreyer/Bill Rose/Al Jolson)/Michael & Cheyenne
  • Old Friend (Nancy Ford/Gretchen Cryer)/Michael
  • A Foggy Day (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin)/Cheyenne
  • So in Love (Cole Porter)/Michael
  • Old Devil Moon (Burton Lane/E.Y. Harburg)/Cheyenne
  • The Time Has Come (Michael Leonard/Marshall Barer)/Michael
  • I’m Checkin’ Out – Goodbye (Billy Strayhorn/Duke Ellington)/Cheyenne
  • The Power of Two (Emily Saliers)/Michael & Cheyenne
  • I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter (Fred E. Ahlert/Joe Young)/Michael
  • I Get Along Without You Very Well – Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Hoagy Carmichael –Duke Ellington/Bob Russell)/Cheyenne
  • We Kiss in a Shadow (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II)/Michael & Cheyenne
  • Salt and Pepper – I’m Nothing Without You (John Barry/Leslie Bricusse – Cy Colman/David Zippel)/Michael & Cheyenne
  • If I Can Dream (W. Earl Brown)/Michael & Cheyenne
  • Someone to Watch Over Me (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin)/Cheyenne

(Note: Special pre-order offer for a signed copy of the CD.)

KATE BALDWIN: LET'S SEE WHAT HAPPENSThe leading lady of Finian’s Rainbow has released a new CD, appropriately a tribute to songs writen by Burton Lane and Yip Harbourg, Let’s See What Happens.

The CD is exquisitely sung — if you have a particular affinity for any of these songs, Baldwin’s version is sure to be a favorite.  There is a good balance of familar material (How Are Things in Glocca Morra ?) and discoveries (The World Is In My Arms).  And that master, Jonathan Tunick, has contributed arrangements for the recording.

Unfortunately, for me, the total adds up to less than a sum of its parts.  The recording has no discernable raison d’etre, and sadly never develops momentum.  And while Baldwin is a beautiful singer with a point of view, there is little distinctive in her work.  She seems to disappear into a lovely soprano haze. 

On the other hand, we’re about to do a lot of holiday entertaining, and this would be perfect to put in the mix for your next cocktail or dinner party!

  • That Something Extra Special
  • How About You?
  • Moments Like This
  • Come Back To Me
  • Here’s To Your Illusions
  • Have Feet Will Dance
  • How Are Things In Glocca Morra?
  • Poor You
  • Paris Is A Lonely Town
  • I Like The Likes Of You
  • Let’s See What Happens/ Open Your Eyes
  • Where Have I Seen Your Face Before?
  • He Wasn’t You
  • I Don’t Think I’ll End It All Today
  • The World Is In My Arms

Stephen Holden on Michael Feinstein

December 4, 2008

The NYTimes reviews the Grammy-nominated artist: “Christmas, Michael Feinstein and Frank Sinatra: three different, tenuously connected worlds collided Tuesday evening at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, where Mr. Feinstein brought a drastically revamped version of his annual holiday extravaganza. What used to be a campy variety show, featuring witty obscure novelties and backup singers wearing Santa hats, became a testosterone-fueled homage.”