Michael Feinstein & Christine Ebersole: Two for the Road

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Michael Feinstein & Christine Ebersole

Two for the Road

Feinstein’s/54Below, July 31, 2018

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes 

Michael Feinstein &
Christine Ebersole
Photo by Maryann Lopinto

There’s something cozy about two consummate professionals who genuinely like one another sharing a stage. Two for the Road is a polished evening of mostly familiar material performed in sincere, low-key fashion. Patter is minimal but illuminating (Feinstein’s an encyclopedia). The band is terrific.

“With all the travel Michael and I have done in our collective 100 years in show business…,” Ebersole quips. A breezy “Let’s Get Away from It All (Matt Dennis/Tom Adair) is followed by a recollection of the artists last having performed together. Weaving together “Where or When” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (Cole Porter) is seamless. The two voices are most comfortable in matching octaves, with one occasionally rising to create subtle harmony. They amiably weigh in.

Feinstein’s lovely, tandem “Wish You Were Here” (Harold Rome) and “So Far Away” (Carole King), with only piano accompaniment, is immensely tender with just a dash of tenor to tickle our heartstrings. The vocalist’s performance is increasingly straight up, as one presumes songwriters intended. Always extremely aware of lyrics, he seems to take them more personally these days. Tedd Firth seems to coax music from his piano. “Where Am I Going?” (Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields), with unexpectedly textural percussion, is underplayed yet palpably distressed.   

“You know how in those old movies, they always had train travel with romance waiting at the end of the line?” Ebersole’s “On the Atchison, Topeka, and The Santa Fe” (Harry Warren/Johnny Mercer), replete with …chuga, chuga, chug; woo, woo…, is thoroughly engaging. The arrangement is fresh and well suited to her, presented with the ebullient conviction of Mama Rose minus the stress. Piano swings (as only Firth can make it do). Less successful is her rendition of “Monotonous” (June Carroll/Arthur Siegel), which seems kitchy rather than jaded.   

A duet of “Why Don’t We Try Staying Home?” (Porter) finds Ebersole bending to place her head on Feinstein’s shoulder. With its easy, well-arranged swing, the song often features a single voice attractively bridging phrases. Neither artist moves but for an occasional raised hand; they are present.

“Thanks for the Memory” (Leo Robin/Ralph Rainger), which put Bob Hope on the map, begins with its rarely heard verse. At first, interpretation differs—Feinstein is serious, while Ebersole smiles. His delivery is cottony, hers silky. It works. Brushes circle, bass is cajoled, piano strolls—flair without fuss. By “strictly entre nous,” they’re both wistful, facing forward into the uncertain future.

Noël Coward’s “Sail Away” is bouncy and optimistic rather than melancholy. The title song, with Feinstein at the piano, is lovely, lingering, quiet. He and Ebersole gaze at one another with appreciation. Feinstein’s tenor embraces, and we finish as light as a floating milkweed pod. An utterly enjoyable evening.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.