Feinstein’s at the Regency
540 Park Avenue
Through Dec. 29
“We need a little Christmas … right this very minute,” sings Michael Feinstein in the opening number of his annual holiday show at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency (through Dec. 29). I don’t know about that. I haven’t recovered from Thanksgiving yet, and I’ve grown hostile toward the yearly pushing, grabbing and commercial extortion that Christmas has become. But we could all use a little cheer, and this show is guaranteed to make you smile.
Like all theme shows that personify the word cabaret, the ho-ho-ho holiday moniker (Michael calls the 2007 edition “Winter Dreams”) is just an excuse to perform whatever strikes his fancy. How else do you explain a Christmas show that includes Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” and ends with “Somewhere” from West Side Story? Accompanied by three swaying backup singers and a six-piece band conducted by ace pianist-arranger John Oddo that includes first-class stars like Jay Leonhart and Bucky Pizzarelli, Michael prepares a feast that includes everything from the swinging Johnny Green tune “The Steam Is on the Beam” (immortalized by Kay Thompson) to sublime ballads like the exquisite Johnny Mandel-Dave Frishberg ballad “You Are There” and what Rosemary Clooney used to call her “revenge medley” (“I Cried for You”, “Who’s Sorry Now?” and “Goody Goody”). Take that, you rascal, you. But Michael doesn’t forget Christmas, or Hanukkah either. Two fingers of Jerry Herman eggnog are heady indeed, and Irving Berlin’s petrified “White Christmas” returns to life, however briefly. Michael always comes up with something unusual, but I must admit I did not find “Where Can I Go?”, a dour and doleful Jewish anthem with lyrics half in English and half in Yiddish, by a man named Leo Fuld, whose family perished in Auschwitz, very indicative of the Yuletide spirit. But the funereal pace picked up instantly with Kay Thompson’s famous arrangement of “Jingle Bells,” which is still like nothing heard before or since. Carols and canapés large and small are the order of the night, and you go away happy, and feeling like you want to buy some mistletoe.