Michael Feinstein: Crooners

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Michael Feinstein


Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, May 18, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Michael Feinstein

Michael Feinstein joked about the Nikko owners throwing him a bone and hiring him for this current four-performance run of Crooners, a celebration of the legendary vocalists who created a conversational style after the introduction of the microphone. Of course, Feinstein has carte blanche anytime he deigns to bring his considerable talent to his namesake club. Over the past few years, he has become increasingly more open, congenial, and downright funny. His quick wit, encyclopedic musical knowledge, and pleasing tenor are always in abundance—the man aims to please.

A Feinstein show has its share of showstoppers: songs that his audience, well versed in the Great American Songbook, eat up. Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” a big hit for crooner Tony Martin, and a lovely, slowed-down rendition of the Ray Henderson/Buddy DeSylva/Lew Brown hit “It All Depends on You” (an homage to Nat King Cole) fit this mold. Tony Bennett is honored with Johnny Mercer/Sadie Vimmerstedt’s heartbreak revenge song “I Wanna Be Around,” carefully massaged with Feinstein’s impeccable phrasing and attention to the lyrical intent. (This song could just have easily been attributed to female crooner Eydie Gormé for her emotionally charged chart topper.

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) Feinstein likes big finishes, which show off his long sustained notes and vocal power, but they aren’t always necessary.

A nice medley of ballads—“Learn to Croon” (Bing Crosby’s unofficial anthem), “I’ll Get By (As Long as I Have You)” (Fred E.

Ahlert/Roy Turk) and “If” (David Gates)—displays Feinstein at his romantic best. A set highlight was his tribute to Peter Allen with “You and Me (We Wanted It All)”, which segued into “I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love” (both co-written with Carole Bayer Sager)—simply stunning. Small details, like his friendship with Peter and Liza, and a possible connection between closeted gay lyricist Edward Heyman and his masterpiece lyrics on “Body and Soul” (music by Johnny Green), make a Feinstein performance a historical treasure as well. His encore was a choice nugget from his favorite composer, George Gershwin, the seldom heard “Three Times a Day” (lyrics by Ira Gershwin and B.G. DeSylva). It was a soft, sweet, tender closer to counter-balance Feinstein’s big, bold swinging style.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.