It's a holiday when Michael Feinstein returns to the club that bears his name at the Regency Hotel. Specifically, it's Christmas -- and, he's quick to remind us, it's also Hanukah. His new show for this festive season is called A Holiday Keepsake and there's much in it that's worth keeping. A good-natured entertainment, the show has its share of "fa-la-la" and "ho, ho, ho" -- and very little humbug.
This is not the show to attend if you want to hear Feinstein's romantic interpretations of the great American songbook; come back in the spring for that. But here's your chance to get into the holiday spirit without becoming mired in excessive schmaltz. Instead of familiar old chestnuts (roasting on an open piano?), Feinstein offers eccentric selections like "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" (Leon T. Rene) which, among other things, reminds us just how good a piano player our host actually is. In recent years, Feinstein has performed standing at a microphone as well as seated on a piano bench. He is up on his feet -- and at the top of his game -- when he delivers what has heretofore been the embarrassingly lame Hanukah song "Dreidel." Thanks to an inspired, swinging arrangement (by a Los Angeles cantor named Kenny Ellis) that mimics the Sinatra sound, Feinstein puts a spin on "Dreidel" that turns it into the highlight of his show.
His special guest star, actress Gloria Reuben, is a credible if not terribly memorable singer. She performs a sensitive version of "Angel Eyes" (Matt Dennis/Earl Brent) but is out of her league when she pairs up with Feinstein, who seems to have better chemistry with the video monitors on each side of the stage: He performs a tribute to the Jimmy Stewart holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life, singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as silent clips from the movie glow on the monitor, the images carefully edited to perfectly match each musical phrase. Feinstein goes back to the videotape near the end of the show to pay tribute to his mentor and friend, the late Rosemary Clooney: Clips from the movie White Christmas as well as still photos of Clooney flash by as he sings "Time Flies" (Jimmy Webb) coupled with "White Christmas" (Irving Berlin). Once again, Feinstein's performance is carefully orchestrated to match the images on the monitor. The result is a very touching tribute.
By the way: You can lay odds that, if Santa had the chance, he'd swap his reindeer for Michael Feinstein's six-piece band. From Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar) to George Rabbai (trumpet and flugelhorn), every one of these players is a star in his own right.
Feinstein and company are playing a split schedule at Feinstein's at the Regency; they're there through December 7 and then, after a week off, will return December 17-28. For more information, click here.
[More reviews by the Siegels can be found at www.cabarethotlineonline.com. For information on the First Annual Nightlife Awards, to be co-presented by Scott Siegel in January at The Town Hall, click here]