The Boy Band Singer Was in Rare Form
By Sandi Durell
Wearing traditional red socks (a tribute to Van Johnson), the velvet-voiced Michael Feinstein was ready to rumble in a chh-chholiday celebration! When I say nobody does it better, it’s not hyperbole.
Traditional songs a-plenty were peppered throughout the evening beginning with Jerry Herman’s upbeat “We Need A little Christmas” (from Mame) to Ralph Blane & Hugh Martin’s cherished, but sad, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” written for Judy Garland in the film Meet Me in St. Louis. Of course it wouldn’t be an MF evening without backstories and there were – many, many that titillated and surprised resulting in lots of happy chuckles. When he’s not singing and/or tickling the 88s or fronting the exquisite musicians in the band (Tedd Firth – Musical Director/Piano, Mark McLean – Drums, Phil Palombi – Bass and Pete Smith – Guitar, together with two fabulous backup singers), he’s got a joke.
“I Only Have Eyes For You” (from Dames –Harry Warren/Al Dubin), in tribute to Studio 54, turned into a disco pop followed by a deliciously romantic “Where Do You Start” (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman/Johnny Mandel) with a tidbit of history. In 1987 Mr. F worked with Mandel (who wrote “The Shadow of Your Smile”) and it was Michael who first recorded and introduced that song).
A reimaged Kenny Ascher/Paul Williams “You And Me Against The World” was delivered with quiet introspection, almost tearful. But then it was time for the great Peter Allen music to be heard (his music collection inherited by Mr. F) – “Everything Old Is New Again, “ “I Honestly Love You” and an up-roaring “I Go To Rio” with the audience dancing in their seats (I know they wanted to get up and turn 54 Below into a hot dance scene).
To balance the holiday spirit, we heard Tom Lehrer’s cleverly humorous “Hanukkah in Santa Monica” followed by audience participation from the Yiddish Tabernacle Choir!
Originally written by Larry Kerchner when he was 18 years old for The Wiz, “Home” (along with 2 other songs written for that show) was sold for $500. However, Mr. Kerchner wrote new lyrics for Michael that filled the heart, soul and spirit, lovingly sung.
Talk about a Sinatra medley – twelve of his top songs were cleverly strung together including “Come Fly With Me”/”Witchcraft”/”A Foggy Day”/”Night & Day”/”You Make Me Feel So Young”. . .
Always reaching for something new, how about “As Time Goes By” sandwiched together with Prince’s “Kiss?” It works! What an original conception!
This is the best of Michael Feinstein . . . his vocals range from deep chest tones to sweet falsetto; his presence and intuitive delivery joyful and filled with emotions.
There’s no place else to be but celebrating the holidays enveloped in the magic of the Ambassador of the Great American Songbook’s Christmas Crooners at 54 Below thru December 30.
Feinstein’s/54 Below.com 254 West 54 Street (Cellar) NYC 646 476-3551
Photos: Magda Katz