Each time I sit in the audience and listen to Michael Feinstein, I get the distinct feeling he has a little secret. It’s that boyish twinkle in his eye as though he was telling himself a really funny joke. Opening night, November 27th was a perfect match celebrating his long association with Ira Gershwin and eventually writing the best selling book “The Gershwins and Me.” He was only 20 years old when he began working with Ira, mentored by one of the greatest lyricists of the Great American Songbook, giving Michael access and insight into the magic of the Gershwins’ creative lives.
But before I say more about the multi-platinum selling Mr. Feinstein, there’s a young man whom Michael has taken under his wing, 16 year old Nick Ziobro, winner of the Feinstein Initiative 2012 Great American Songbook Competition, serving as Youth Ambassador of the Great American Songbook. He recently debuted at Feinstein’s namesake together with Michael and Marilyn Maye. Well, he’s back and this time opening the show with a mini-set that includes the pathos of youth and love as in “Here’s That Rainy Day,” exhibiting emotional impact of an almost mature adult who’s suffered the pangs of a lost love, then lifted by “This Guys In Love With You” and a down n’ dirty “New Orleans.” Ziobro had already proven his worth as an up-coming torch bearer of the Songbook, but I was taken at how quickly he’s absorbed even greater insinuation, color and inflections vocally. It’s only up, up and away from here!
Michael Feinstein is pure Fun, with a capital F, his smoky, wistful jazz inflections grab the listener, whether it’s in the pairing of “Isn’t It a Pity”/”Nice Work If You Can Get It” or the iconic “Embraceable You” where he sang the song’s melody, but played counterpoint melodies including “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Summertime,” Nice Work . . .” and more. What a treat! He also decided to challenge himself with the tongue twisting Russian names in “Tchaikovsky” followed by Marshall Barer’s version listing American composers, i.e., Jule Styne, Hammerstein – Let’s just say he isn’t the zany Mark Nadler, dashing here and there, but did a pretty good job.
Then there’s the history Michael imparts to his audience that fills in answers to many questions; in this case, about the Gershwins especially their relationship with Fred Astaire leading into a loooooooong Fred Medley that included: A Foggy Day/Funny Face/S’Wonderful/Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off/Lady Be Good/They All Laughed and many more ending with a tender “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
Relating this little tidbit of a young kid announcing “I’m going to sing Summertime by Porgy and Bess,” gave pause as to why we need to work harder to get the music from the Great American Songbook out to the younger generation! Thanks Michael for leading the many who work tirelessly in that direction.
Sitting in the audience and cheering were friends Liza Minnelli, Tamara Tunie, Betty White and Wendie Malick.
The band is comprised of top musicians: Alan Broadbent piano/Music Director; Harvie S, bass; Albie Berk, drums; Andy Farber, saxophone/flute; Joseph Magnarelli, trumpet.
I cannot recommend this show highly enough! It’s a MUST SEE for all. Michael Feinstein is at the Loews Regency, with Nick Ziobro thru Dec. 15th, and continues on with his solo show thru December 22nd. www.feinsteinsattheregency.com 212 339-4095