By Sandi Durell
Once again, the incomparable Michael Feinstein took the stage at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall on March 23, this time to celebrate 125 Years of the magnificent structure where the crème de la crème of show business entertainment have performed.
With his boyish grin and soft mellow romantic tones, the maestro sat at the piano opening with a shout out to his mentor George Gershwin (“They All Laughed/I’ve Got Rhythm”), and where Mr. Gershwin performed his “Rhapsody in Blue” for only the second time as well as premiering “American in Paris” . . . Carnegie Hall.
It’s not only about the music that many of us call home, it’s also a running history of intricate facts that Mr. Feinstein keeps in his head and sprinkles like little gems throughout the evening, along with his always humor-filled tales of celebrities and their oops moments, on and off stage, as in some gossipy tidbits involving Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Angie Dickinson, Lauren Bacall (sorry you missed it; next time you’ll just have to be there!). He owes a lot to Mr. Gershwin and it couldn’t have been more succinctly noted than in the special material “Where Would I Be if It Weren’t For You” . . . sitting at a piano or in a corner saloon.
His special guests progressed from great to grand, beginning with Miss America 1981, soprano Susan Powell (“I Got Lost in His Arms” and “Bill”). Midstream, Feinstein returned with “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” and there were, in this jazzy/bluesy/latin arrangement. That’s what’s so special about Feinstein; he’s a man of many styles.
With songwriter John Bucchino at the piano, Tony nominee/Emmy Winner Liz Callaway took center stage singing Bucchino’s award winning “Feels Like Home” – sung by Audra McDonald at the opening of Zankel Hall. Ms. Callaway has a purity of sound unmatched by many and the most beautiful enunciation, especially noted when she sang “The Trolley Song.”
Commemorating the 125 Year Anniversary of Carnegie Hall, a new song, written by Bucchino and Feinstein, was introduced – “In A Concert at Carnegie Hall” – a story filled with pathos and love between a father and son.
This brings us to a Broadway, television and film Leading Lady, Tony Winner, the extraordinary Christine Ebersole. With a little help from her friend, Michael, she got her intros right and was off “On The Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe” – woo woo . . . (including a section only sung on a recording by Johnny Mercer). She followed with the winsome “Right As the Rain,” moving right along into the fabulous Rodgers and Hart’s words, words, words of “Johnny One Note,” at super speed, leaving little doubt as to why she’s a star.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Ebersole and Feinstein dueted and in counter-point, using the base ‘Embraceable You,” Michael inserted more than a dozen other Gershwin winners. Quite a feat of musical ingenuity and imagination.
Wrapping up the evening was Irving Berlin’s magnificent “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”
It couldn’t have happened without the magical Tedd Firth on piano, Sean Smith on bass and Mark McLean on drums.
The evening was produced by ASCAP Director Michael Kerker.
Standard Time with Michael Feinstein resumes October 19, 2016.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto