Michael Feinstein
Michael Feinstein
Like Miss Jean Brodie, Michael Feinstein is in his prime. He has grown artistically to the point where he can as easily toss off a wisecrack as bring a tear to your eye with a tender ballad. Earlier in his illustrious career, he could be alternately funny and romantic, but now he is also capable of expressing a far greater depth of feeling when he sings.

In Home for the Holidays, his new show at his namesake nightclub, Feinstein goes well beyond tinsel and mistletoe to sing about the emotional underpinnings of the holiday season: the people we love and the people we've lost, plus a fragile hope for the future. He sings "That's What I Want For Christmas," a deeply romantic song that feels as if it's been gift-wrapped by a lover's hands. He also offers a poetically poignant rendition of Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford's "Old Friend"

Feinstein is celebratory in honoring Bob Hope, who lived to be 100 years old. Noting that old ski nose had introduced a number of famous songs on Broadway, he delivers his own favorite Hope number: the up-tempo George and Ira Gershwin tune "That Certain Feeling," which the star sang in the1956 film of the same title. Additionally, Feinstein performs an all-Gershwin medley of songs culled from audience requests.

The emotional highlight of the show comes when Feinstein pays tribute to the great librettist and lyricist Betty Comden, who died last month. After his singing of "Some Other Time" paired with "The Party's Over," there was hardly a dry eye in the house; the sense of loss that he conveyed was as palpable as a sob. On the other hand: Hope (not Bob) is ever-present in Feinstein's lovely rendition of the modern Christmas song "Heavenly Peace," and a generally upbeat attitude could not be better expressed than in his take on "Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive."

Among the many other gifts in this generous holiday show is "Pig Foot Pete," an unexpected boogie woogie number that was nominated for an Oscar in 1942 but lost to "White Christmas" (which he performs at the end of the show.) It's a real audience pleaser, yet no one could possibly be having a better time during its performance than Feinstein himself.

Smartly deployed throughout the show is a stunningly talented six-piece band, led by John Oddo. Also on hand are three backup singers, amusingly called "The aDornMents" (named in honor of singer Margaret Dorn). Give special credit to Oddo for the perfectly balanced arrangements.

In this season when so many people are putting on holiday shows, we're delighted to say that Michael Feinstein has developed into the kind of entertainer you'll really want to leave home for.