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Winter Dreams

Date: 2007-11-29
source: New York Times
author: Stephen Holden

Holiday Songbook Blends Familiar Carols and Revenge Medleys. Beneath the festive trappings of Michael Feinstein?s annual holiday extravaganza (this year?s edition is titled ?Winter Dreams?) is one of his most personal shows. Along with the usual frolics- a peppy Jerry Herman Christmas medley, a playful recreation of Kay Thompson?s vocal arrangement of ?Jingle Bells? with three backup singers- is a program in which Mr. Feinstein pays heartfelt tribute to departed friends and musical idols. Constructed like a traditional television Christmas special, ?Winter Dreams,? at Feinstein?s at Loews Regency, is a show of quick changes in which Mr. Feinstein is all things to all people: host, singer, pianist, raconteur, comic and all-around entertainer. Behind the tinsel lurk the ghosts of the songwriter Harry Warren, the composer Johnny Green, Irving Berlin and most prominently Rosemary Clooney, whom Mr. Feinstein fondly remembers as his ?Beverly Hills mother.? The show is also pointedly Jewish. Sandwiched between ?Jingle Bells? and a tidbit of campy rock ?n roll trivia (E. E. Lawrence?s ?That?s What I Want for Christmas?) is a lament, ?Where Can I Go?? recorded in the late 1940?s by the Dutch-born Yiddish singer Leo Fuld, who died in 1997. Mr. Feinstein builds it into a cantorial cry. Since Mr. Feinstein is an artist who detests loose ends, there is a seasonal connection to almost everything he sings. Mr. Warren, for instance, was born on Christmas Eve. And at Tuesday?s opening-night show, Mr. Feinstein?s back-to-back renditions of the Warren standards ?The More I See You? and ?There Will Never Be Another You? elicited some of his most tender crooning along with pianism as smooth as glass. As a Christmas present, he recounted, Ms. Clooney gave him what she called her revenge medley, which stitches together I Cried for You, who?s Sorry Now? and Goody Goody Revenge may not fit the holiday spirit, but the medley allowed Mr. Feinstein to demonstrate his ever-expanding confidence as a pugilistic jazz swinger in front of a six-member band led by John Oddo. The evening?s most touching moment was his hushed rendition of the Dave Frishberg-Johnny Mandel song ?You Are There,? whose narrator drifts into a reverie in which he communes with someone who has died. Mr. Feinstein sang it as though he were murmuring endearments in Ms. Clooney?s ear. ?Winter Dreams? continues through Dec. 29 at Feinstein?s at Manhattan, .