By: Sandi Durell
Two peas in a pod – like hand in glove, Michael Feinstein and Marilyn Maye were made to share a stage. The two jazz swingers finally came together at Michael’s namesake September 4, 2012 for a 3 week run. When it comes to the Great American Songbook, there are no better keepers of the flame.
Together, Feinstein and Maye are a vibrant chemical reaction. The effervescent marvelous Ms. Maye, always a joy to see and hear, is strong, powerful and hot, hot, hot; the notes, phrasing and musicality right on. The charming, mellow and mighty Mr. Feinstein is the perfect partner as the two were ‘Swingin’ the Night Away.’ Throughout the evening, there was amusing, gentle banter adding to the likeability factor.
Each entering from opposite sides of the room, it was evident from the opening “Big Time/Open A New Window” (Jerry Herman), that the evening would be high octane.
Maye’s glorious “Rainbow Medley” of Lerner and Loewe (Look to the Rainbow/Make Me a Rainbow/Over the Rainbow/Rainbow Connection) was lush with the kind of rhythm that appeals to her most – the jazz waltz which Michael later identified as ‘the rhythm of the heart.’ Her rendition of Desmond/Brubeck’s “Take Five” spewed lyrical wonders at the speed of light.
Feinstein, always ready with a witticism, had that little boy sparkle as he began “Hello Dolly” in Louis Armstrong style before segueing into new lyrics. His heartfelt tribute to two friends and great artists, Tony Martin (who played Feinstein’s and died this year at 95), and Marvin Hamlisch, passing in July at age 68, made for a teary eyed “The Way We Were” (Hamlisch/Alan & Marilyn Bergman).
They dueted on several tunes in a “Wonderful Medley” and brought the audience to their feet as they swung with “Boogie Medley” (I Love A Piano/Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy), Feinstein surprising at the piano as he broke into “Great Balls of Fire” as the room roared.
An additional treat was the introduction of this year’s winner of the competition held by The Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, 16 year old Nick Ziobro singing “All of Me,” a young upcoming talent who will be making a mark as he continues in the great tradition.
The sad, yet always inspirational “When You’re Smiling/Smile” duet in counterpoint ended the glorious evening of sensational cabaret as you wish it could always be.
The best of the best musicians graced the stage and accompanied the cozy twosome: Tedd Firth (Piano); Tom Hubbard (Bass); Albie Berk (Drums); Ken Peplowski (woodwinds); Glen Drews (Trumpet).
It was a who’s who of celebrities and performers in the opening night audience including Alan Cumming, Jim Caruso, Cheyenne Jackson, La Tanya Hall, Susan Powell, Christine Ebersole, Molly Pope, Justin Bond and icon Liza Minnelli.