Michael Feinstein & Cheyenne Jackson: The Power of Two
Feinstein’s at Loews Regency
It’s a new world, dude. If two men can raise their glasses to toast their own weddings, they might as well lift their voices to serenade each other with love songs. If Phylicia Rashad can now play Elizabeth Ashley’s sister in August: Osage County on Broadway, Michael Feinstein and Cheyenne Jackson should be able to gaze into each other’s eyes and sing “We Kiss in a Shadow” onstage at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency. Which is exactly what they’re doing through June 27.
They tell you upfront, opening with Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s “You’re Nothing Without Me” from City of Angels, that this is a cabaret act celebrating partnerships of all kinds—work, play, friendship and love. The twofold point of this show is that (1) same-sex relationships, out of the closet in the sunshine of day where everyone can see, is an idea whose time has come, and (2) now is the time when everyone can be whatever or whomever they want to be. To prove it, Mr. Feinstein quotes Victor Hugo, of all people: “Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.” I think he was talking about the French Revolution, but whatever. Songs like Marshall Barer’s “The Time Has Come” certainly do. In the old days, if Liberace had sung these songs to the headwaiter in Vegas, everyone would have run screaming to the sheriff’s office. But Mr. Feinstein’s fans are unfazed. They like him any way they can get him.
They like Cheyenne Jackson, too. Capricious and self-contained, with a voice as big as his biceps, he sometimes threatens to overwhelm the lyrics. But there’s no denying his talent is vast, and on the occasion when he trusts the word “subtlety” long enough to settle dreamily into a ballad, he owns the room. It’s an interesting concept. The tall, strapping hunk from Idaho on roller skates in the moronic Xanadu, and the suave, groomed Jewish keeper of the keys to the Great American Songbook from the Big Apple, accompanied by a swinging six-piece band led by Rosemary Clooney’s arranger-pianist, John Oddo, look like Mutt and Jeff singing songs by Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Gershwins, but they are a formidable musical pair whose voices soar together like choirboys with ambitions beyond the apse.
They call this act “The Power of Two,” from a song by the Indigo Girls they admire a great deal more than I do, and their choice of material represents quite a stretch. In a show dedicated to a New Age in which all unions are possible, songs like Earl Brown’s “If I Can Dream” and Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” take on new meaning. The idea that we now live in a time when anything goes is not exactly groundbreaking. We already know that. Here lies a slight problem. Since the stripping away of every conceivable prejudice seems like a moral “given” in any contemporary human equation, I’m not entirely certain I see the actual point of the show, and I did not always feel like I was learning anything new. So I just stopped worrying and started listening. The rewards are lovely. No lyrics were cut and changed to fit the pattern, and besides—singing same-gender songs has been a staple of every Irish tenor’s repertoire since “Danny Boy.” What’s worse is when lyrics are twisted into idiocy for political correctness. (Anyone remember Ella Fitzgerald singing “Have You Met Sir Jones”?) But I digress. They can josh all they want to about being “the millennium Steve and Eydie” or a singing Leopold and Loeb. The bottom line is that Michael Feinstein and Cheyenne Jackson, on both solos and in duets, have conceived an unusual, provocative entertainment that makes you think and snap your fingers at the same time. Their mutual admiration society in “The Power of Two” is contagious.