By Brian Scott Lipton . . .

If you’re thinking that Michael Feinstein is celebrating the 100th birthday of the late, great Judy Garland just because he’s a friend of Liza’s, think again. In his sensational new show at his home club, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Get Happy: Michael Feinstein Celebrates the Judy Garland Centennial, Ms. Minnelli’s name is rarely mentioned! Indeed, what comes through most strongly in this wonderful 90-minute outing is Feinstein’s admiration for Garland as a versatile vocalist who made every song she sang even better.

Given all that Garland accomplished in her 47 years, it’s no surprise Feinstein has broken up his tribute into two parts (with the second one, which will be seen at the club next week, devoted to Garland’s career as a concert artist.)  This first section is devoted to the first 30 years or so of Garland’s career. Luckily, we’re treated, via two large computer screens, to some wonderful photographs and film clips from that era — many of which are all the reminder we need that MGM once stood (informally) as “Money Garland Made.”

After a thrilling overture by pianist Tedd Firth, bassist David Finck and drummer Mark McLean, a joyous rendition of “Get Happy” (from Garland’s final MGM film, Summer Stock) and a charming tribute ditty set to the music of “That’s Entertainment,” Feinstein – who has rarely seemed more relaxed onstage — briefly delves into her personal history and the music of Garland’s childhood career when she performed with her sisters. He does this through the delicious “Vaudeville Medley,” which includes joyous renditions of such standards as “Dinah” and “Carolina in the Morning.”

As the show progresses, we delight in three more well-chosen medleys: “The Early MGM Medley,” which pays tribute to Garland’s close friend and mentor, Roger Edens; “The Judy/Mickey Medley” which commemorates her longtime film partnership with Mickey Rooney and features the best version of “How About You” that I’ve ever heard; and the “MGM Medley,” which quickly becomes an audience singalong (whether Feinstein wants that or not) thanks to three irresistible classic tunes, “On the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe,” “For Me & My Gal,” and “The Trolley Song.”

As for MGM (and Garland’s) greatest triumph, “The Wizard of Oz,” Feinstein opts to salute that film not by doing Garland’s signature song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but rather through a staple of his concert repertoire, a delightful medley of “If I Only Had a Brain/A Heart/The Nerve.”

Still, as much as I adore the great MGM musicals, my two favorite moments in the show are when Feinstein serves up the 1934 ditty “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” in three completely different arrangements that she used throughout her career, and the showing of a homemade a cappella recording, complete with video, of a 19-year-old Garland singing the World War II standard “I’ll Be Seeing You,” which Feinstein rather magically found behind a hidden wall in a house that Garland built for her mother.

Fittingly, he ends the show with the gorgeous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — complete with one of Feinstein’s invaluable behind-the-scenes anecdotes. It’s that kind of combination of song and story that make any evening with this consummate entertainer so special, no matter the subject or the season.

Get Happy: Michael Feinstein Celebrates the Judy Garland Centennial continues at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) through December 26. Visit for tickets and information.

Photos (excluding lead photo) by Evan Warren