Michael Feinstein and Christine Ebersole
At Feinstein's at Loews Regency
Teaming up with Cheyenne Jackson at the end of last season was cabaret ka-chink for Michael Feinstein. Since you don't fix what's not broke, the host of Feinstein’s at Loew's Regency opened the club's second decade with Good Friends, co-starring his pal, Christine Ebersole. Together, they wrapped the club in a mutual admiration society.
Formed by music and personality, the show had a smooth arc. A soft swing got things going with countermelodies fitting in as many songs as possible before anyone spoke a word. The first of these tuneful mixings followed Murray Grand's opener, "Good Good Friends," with the metaphysical musing of, "Where or When" (Rodgers and Hart) mingling and the earthiness of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin." All these counterpart arrangements were by John Oddo and fit smoothly as silk, though outstanding was their later delivery of the Gershwins' "Embraceable You" embracing ten more Gershwin tunes.
Ebersole pointed out that Feinstein is a "supreme music archivist," not an overstatement. Feinstein quipped, "You're wacky. I like that." Both points were valid, supported by the next two songs. Feinstein went back to the '40's with Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's "How Little We know" as sung by Lauren Bacall in To Have and to Hold, part of a nod to Mercer in his centennial year. He commented that the studio wanted to dub
Bacall's voice with that of Andy Williams, but at the end, it was the husky Bacall tone that remained in the film. Ebersole looked at the same era of film, selling an upbeat, "Love Isn't Born It's Made," (Schwartz and Loesser) with the sharp street-smarts delivered by Ann Sheridan in Thank Your Lucky Stars.
High points came as the songs went deeper. Feinstein's poignantly unfussy rendition of "This Moment" would make composer John Wallowitch proud. At the piano he forsook the perky advice in "Put on a Happy Face" (Strouse/Adams) from Bye Bye, Birdie for a more contemporary, thoughtful approach. "What Kind of Fool Am I?" (Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse) went definitely dark in Feinstein's somber and notable rendition. Perhaps the most touching pairing in this show was Jerry Herman's "Kiss Her Now," sung by Feinstein and a passionate, "I Don't Want to Know" by Ebersole, invoking a feel for the fragility of life.
After the trip into musically personal territory, the duo ended strong, with good communication in "Two For the Road" (Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse). They were both in robust voice, Ebersole showing her soprano power and dramatic and comedic strengths, and Feinstein again displaying good range and robust vocalism. John Oddo's band of vets were supportive behind these performers who can individually hold their own against six vibrant musicians. As Christine Ebersole commented early on, they were celebrating the magic of lyrics. What they also celebrated, without tricks or frills, was the bubbly spirit of talent and experience.
September 10, 2009
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