Smooth Moves

Even at Winspear Opera House, Michael Feinstein and Nicole Henry manage to class up the joint.
by Cathy O'Neal
published Thursday, November 18, 2010

Michael Feinstein's rich, velvety voice is the perfect voice to carry on the legacy of American songwriters like Cole Porter and the Gershwins. It's not just the way he interprets and delivers the songs, it's also the appreciation, knowledge and respect he has for the music that make his concerts so extraordinary.

Feinstein took a nearly full house of music lovers on a whirlwind tour of his "Great American Songbook" at the Winspear Opera House Wednesday night in a concert that included Broadway showtunes, torch songs, a little Sinatra, a dash of Van Morrison, and of course, a Gershwin medley. He bounded on stage in a tux with a checked shirt and bow tie. His energy and youthful presence was like Pee Wee Herman meets Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarity, with a touch of Bobby Darin.

The opening song was what the Glee kids would call a "mashup," of "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys & Dolls and "All I Need is the Girl" from Gypsy. His set also included a jazzy, big band version of Van Morrison's Moondance. But Feinstein's best moments were when he mesmerized his audience with his smooth delivery of George and Ira Gershwins' "I've Got a Crush on You" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." He accompanied himself on the piano about half of the time, turning it over to his musical director, John Otto, for the other half.

Feinstein, who in addition to performing, is known as a music preservationist, chatted with the audience about the shared experience of live music and the rarity of having a 17-piece orchestra on stage with him. He also infused his show with humor and a spot-on Paul Lynde impersonation as well as his versions of Liberace and Lawrence Welk.

Jazz artist Nicole Henry opened the show for Feinstein and joined him on stage for a duet of a Bing Crosby/Bob Hope tune. Henry's sultry voice and jazz vocals were the perfect warm-up and prologue to Feinstein's "American Songbook." The evening was presented by the AT&T Performing Arts Center as part of Jazz Roots, a Larry Rosen Jazz Series. While Michael Feinstein's accomplishments in music preservation are amazing, his work is made more powerful by sharing in what is clearly his passion, performing the music he has devoted himself to preserving.