Opening at Feinstein's

From: New York Now | Music |
Tuesday, October 05, 1999
Feinstein Calls Regency Home
Daily News Staff Writer

Michael Feinstein has been in a lot of nightclubs over the years. Tonight, he'll be in a brand-new one: Feinstein's at the Regency.

"I've been thinking about this for a long time," he says. "Most entertainers probably have a fantasy about opening a club, but since I don't have a business background, it was never something I could seriously pursue.

"But then I signed on with a new manager, and one of the questions he asked was what were the things in life I'd like to do that I haven't done? I said, owning a club. It just popped out, but that was enough for him. He found out the Regency was interested in creating a room for entertainment in their hotel, and they took my ideas and made it a reality."

Feinstein's at the Regency will be in the same room the hotel uses for its early-morning power breakfasts. After the dishes are cleared, it will become a 150-seat club, with dinner service starting at 6:30.

Feinstein will be the room's second headliner, doing two shows nightly. But on opening night, Rosemary Clooney will be the star.

"Rosie's like my second mother," Feinstein says. "I wanted to open the club with someone other than myself, and I thought, 'Who would I want to see more than anyone else?' The answer was obvious Rosie."

Feinstein who has 18 albums to his credit has always been a busy guy. He's a composer, pianist, singer, entertainer, arranger and interpreter of such musical legends as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Duke Ellington, Harry Warren and the Gershwins.

Now, he has his own room, and when he's not performing in it, he will be making sure everything in it is performing well.

"My name is on it," he says. "It's important to me to be sure every element is perfect."

Rosemary Clooney will perform through Oct. 16 at Feinstein's at the Regency, inside the Regency Hotel, at Park Ave. and 61st St.

NY TIMES - CABARET REVIEW; A Brand New Club, an Ageless Star (10/8/99)
With the grand opening on Tuesday evening of a 150-seat supper club at the Regency Hotel bearing the name of the singer and pianist Michael Feinstein (who is booking the club in partnership with the Tisch family), Feinstein's at the Regency (540 Park Avenue, at 61st Street) has become the first high-end supper club to cast its hat in the cabaret ring since the demise of Rainbow and Stars.

The club, equipped with a new sound and lighting system, occupies the hotel's ''power breakfast'' restaurant and has a cozy, librarylike atmosphere. But will it fly? Feinstein's at the Regency is expensive. If it books more performers of the stature of Rosemary Clooney, who opened a two-week engagement there on Tuesday, it stands a fighting chance of survival.

But following Mr. Feinstein, who comes in on Oct. 19, who might those performers be?

Ms. Clooney, who is 71 and in very good voice despite being slightly short of breath, is an icon of naturalness in a realm where affectation often tries to pass for depth. Blunt, jolly and loquacious, she projects the warmth of a den mother opening her arms to her flock.

When she sings, with perfect enunciation, a casually swinging authority and a sound that still conveys a flavor of spring flowers, you're less aware of technique and interpretation than of a life poured directly into song.

Even at the beginning of her career, Ms. Clooney conveyed a no-nonsense directness that ruled out attitudinizing and hysteria. Today that quality is even more pronounced.

The bulk of her new show is divided into blocks of songs by individual composers: three by Dave Frishberg, three Duke Ellington standards and three with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Supported by a superb pop-jazz sextet under the direction of John Oddo, Ms. Clooney repeatedly demonstrated her gift for transforming the simple into the profound. The evening's show-stopper was a pensive version of ''When October Goes,'' Barry Manilow's posthumous setting of an almost doggerel-like Mercer lyric about memory, regret and the passage of time that conveyed a bittersweet message: our deepest emotional wounds never completely heal.

NY TIMES - CABARET REVIEW; Who's at Feinstein's? Why, It's Feinstein! (10/22/99)

To describe Michael Feinstein as the consummate variety-show entertainer of 1960-something is not to belittle this diehard nostalgist who served his apprenticeship as Ira Gershwin's secretary. Since making his New York cabaret debut more than a decade ago, Mr. Feinstein has added multiple layers of show business savvy to the boyish, slick-haired singer and pianist.

In his latest incarnations he is a saloonkeeper (he is a guiding force and namesake behind Feinstein's at the Regency, the elegant new supper club in the Regency Hotel) and band singer. (He has just released an album, ''Big City Rhythms'' for Concord Jazz, in which he swings forcefully with the Maynard Ferguson Big Band.)

At Tuesday's opening-night performance of a four-week engagement at the club that bears his name, Mr. Feinstein was backed by the same pop-jazz sextet that recently accompanied Rosemary Clooney there. What he delivered was an ultra-polished lounge show that at various moments evoked the heydays of Danny Kaye, Mel Torme, Eddie Fisher, Liberace and Al Jolson. The most amusing comic turn was ''Girl Talk,'' a slinky pop-jazz period piece by Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup that almost lived up to Mr. Feinstein's description of it as ''the last great male chauvinist song written in the 60's.''

Although Mr. Feinstein's essence still lies in ballads originating at the piano (a smoothly crooned medley of ''Someone to Watch Over Me'' joined with ''In a Sentimental Mood'' was especially impressive), he has done his big-band homework. Much of the show found him stepping out from the behind the piano and belting numbers like ''Come Back to Me'' and ''Too Marvelous for Words'' with a strength and dynamic suppleness that had eluded him several years ago when he did the same thing at Carnegie Hall.