Nobody I know is ready for synthetic snow and popcorn balls, but the Rockefeller tree is already lit up like the front of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, so there must be a reindeer on the way. Michael Feinstein certainly delivers some early Yuletide cheer in his annual holiday show at Loew’s Regency. This one, on view for all and sundry through Dec. 30, is called “Swinging in the Holidays.” He means it and he’s got an expensive 12-piece band and three backup singers to help him prove it.
Just to make sure nobody thinks a nice Jewish boy has gone totally farblondjet, singing songs about Santa Claus and Christmas, Michael always mixes up the musical Hallmark cards about jingle bells and chestnuts roasting on an open fire with standards from the Great American Songbook appropriate for any season. I guess you could call it a “Great American Holiday Songbook.” So don’t be shocked when he belts out “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” or croons his way through “For All We Know” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” He does explain that almost every beloved Christmas song in history was written by a Jew. (I mean, was Irving Berlin a Presbyterian?) Good example: He opens with two rousing carols by Jerry Herman, “We Need a Little Christmas,” from Mame, and “The Best Christmas of All,” which Angela Lansbury introduced in the TV musical Mrs. Santa Claus, flying across the stars in a sleigh. Then, moving off topic, he segues from Leslie Bricusse’s beautiful ballad “You and I” from Goodbye, Mr. Chips into “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and then hits the ground running with the great Kay Thompson’s swinging “Holiday Season.” Only the spirit of a heart flung wide could imagine how Frank Sinatra might have celebrated Chanukah in Yiddish with Nelson Riddle’s orchestra and a horror called “The Dreidel Song” (by a pair of composers named Grossman and Goldfarb), the point of which eluded me totally. A dreidel, we all learned, is a spinning top. I thought a spinning top was just a spinning top, and without one, I guess you’re topless.
At the piano, or spinning his own top with a terrific band arranged by John Oddo, Mr. Feinstein is always full of surprises and joy. Once you adjust to the fact that this is not a Christmas show full of customary fairy lights and eggnog, you are free to just have fun. I’d like to say he’s got rosy-cheeked energy accompanied by a few extra dollops of enthusiasm, but he’s a vegan, and I’ve yet to see a vegan with rosy cheeks. The enthusiasm never flags, however, and the voice is stronger than ever. One wonders if that voice will decline as years go by, but for now, Michael Feinstein is at the height of his vocal power, charm and holiday ho-ho-ho.
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