Review: Michael Feinstein

Michael Feinstein takes up residence in the New York nightclub that bears his name every year in December, to celebrate the holidays, more specifically to celebrate holiday songs. In this year’s edition, titled “Swinging in the Holidays”, Michael artfully blends holiday favorites and classic standards, sometimes in medleys, sometimes by giving a classic holiday song a fresh take.

And Feinstein’s serious about “swinging”: his longtime Musical Director John Oddo leads a 12-piece ensemble called the Winter Wonderland Big Band, upping the excitement that is always present in Oddo’s arrangements, without ever abandoning the elegant and tasteful restraint that’s his hallmark.

The show opens with a medley of songs by legendary Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman, who will celebrate his 80th birthday next year. Never one to go for the obvious, Michael opens with the non-holiday Herman classic “Before the Parade Passes By” before launching into the more timely “We Need a Little Christmas” and “The Best Christmas of All”.

Ingenious: by starting with “Parade” Feinstein places emphasis on savoring the time we get to spend with loved ones at this time of year. That emphasis runs thematically throughout the entire show, in a sophisticated way that steers clear of easy sentimentality, in favor of an awareness that being with them is by no means a given (a rueful medley of “For All We Know” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” towards the end brings this idea powerfully home).

All this, and it’s also a genuinely swinging good time. Feinstein and company playfully swing “The Dreidel Song” in the style of Sinatra at his most swaggering (Michael Solves the Swinging Chanukah Riddle?). And he sounds fabulous doing it: Feinstein is without a doubt in the best voice of his career. Vocally, he’s gone from strength to strength, and now he’s really soaring and belting with the best of them, holding some ridiculously long high notes at the evening’s climax. Above all, this seasonal gathering simply put on a really engaging show that adds both heartfelt warmth and chic fun to the holiday season.

For tickets, click here.

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