Michael Feinstein and David Hyde Pierce
Feinstein’s at Loews Regency – December 1 – 30
Michael Feinstein knows how to pick his singing partners. Last June, he illustrated “The Power of Two” with Cheyenne Jackson, that theater hunk with polished vocals. In September, he joined with the ever-delightful Christine Ebersole. For the month of December, Feinstein has invited pal David Hyde Pierce, who brings his dry wit and deadpan presence (Frasier, Spamalot, and Curtains) for what some might argue is the most enjoyable and humorous of Feinstein’s musical pairings.
Instead of appearing under an expected “merry, jolly, happy holiday” banner, they run a thread of “no theme” throughout the show. Yet, by the end, it’s obvious there actually is a theme: friends having fun. That makes for a convivial leitmotif. The show starts off with Noel Coward’s jaunty “Together With Music,” from Coward’s 1955 television special with Mary Martin. As the show continues, the duo’s easy patter and appealing song choices add to the sentiment. Sealing the theme deal, they begin their closing trio of songs with Marc Shaiman and Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “The Best of Friends.”
Just two friends having a good time would not be enough, but Feinstein and Pierce are two strong singers with clever comic instincts and material that highlights their strengths. Feinstein, in robust voice, delivers a full-toned piano/vocal rendition of Cole Porter’s “So In Love.” There’s a nod to Johnny Mercer in this Mercer centennial year with “I Wanna Be Around” (Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt), colored with jazz backup by Mark Vinci on reeds. Feinstein delves into the dark depths with Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s “What Kind of Fool Am I?” from Stop the World—I Want to Get Off. The song, which won the 1963 Grammy Award for Song of the Year, is presented at a slow, meditative pace that adds a dramatic layer to the lyrics and ends with emotional depth.
Let’s hope that David Hyde Pierce’s cabaret debut will not be his last foray into the art form. His staid demeanor and whimsically smart delivery are perfect for nightclub intimacy. In Jerry Herman’s “Penny in My Pocket,” a delightful patter tune cut from Hello, Dolly!, Pierce brings to life the playful story of that shiny little penny that never stops giving. He brings out the tender memory of “Your Face,” written years ago by John Kander for his partner. Pierce’s presentation of “Ill Wind,” Michael Flanders’s lyric set to the finale of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 in E flat major, is stellar. Pierce’s puckish pinnacle, however, is his theatrical razzle-dazzle in “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway (if you don’t have any Jews),” John DuPrez and Eric Idle’s hilarious showstopper from Monty Python’s Spamalot. With the band going full force behind him, he is priceless.
There is a bit of a nod to the holidays as both singers deliver Les Brown’s “We Wish You the Merriest” and Feinstein performs what has become a holiday standard for him, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane). The two also join together for Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” buttering up each other and including their own seasonal tidbits. How about rhyming “cradle” with “dreidel”?
Unless you knew that David Hyde Pierce studied classical piano at Yale University, you might be surprised to see him join Feinstein at the keyboard driving Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” with an upbeat, then fierce energy.
This is a class act backed by the top band around, including musical director John Oddo on piano, Mark Vinci on reeds, George Rabbai on trumpet, Jim Saporito on drums and bassist Jay Leonhart. No theme to this show? Are you kidding? As Michael Feinstein and David Hyde Pierce admit, “We’re good together”— and their show is a must-see.