I don’t usually cover the Cabaret world, but as Michael Feinstein and Linda Eder have both graced Broadway stages on their career trajectories, I thought you might like to know how they’re doing when they are up there just inches away from you, on their own without benefit of plot, full orchestra or an audience of 1,000.
To cut to the chase, they are doing just fine, and if you find yourself in New York in the mood to go steppin’ out dressed in your finery, there is no better bistro to park at then this gem on Park Avenue where the elite meet to eat (and drink).
Of course, Feinstein and Eder have put in lots of mileage on the cabaret circuit, so it’s no surprise they know how to handle a crowd of revelers by offering 75 minutes of jazz, pop and Broadway material arranged to keep your head bobbing between frozen margueritas or dry rob roys.
Under the musical direction of Billy Jay Stein, who has a great smile and is a kicky pianist, with a band of seven instrumentalists, Feinstein and Eder work well together, though at first glance, they are a bit of an odd couple. She, tall, somewhat matronly, dressed simply in a long black sheath; he, not so tall, face still boyish in his fifties. They call their show “Two For The Road” which is the title of the song that concludes their act, and it suits them well. Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse wrote it, and these two fine vocalists send us all home happy with their full out attack on it.
They open the show with Sondheim’s “Old Friend”, which is bouncy and bright. Though they elaborate on this theme throughout the show, I must admit it’s not the likeliest description of their relationship in that one doesn’t think of Feinstein and Eder as a couple as one might the pairing of Steve and Edie, Martin and Lewis, even MacDonald and Eddy. It would be tough, for example, to try to write a musical co-starring the two of them – they’re not a likely romantic couple, they don’t look like brother and sister, and their careers have not overlapped sufficiently to conjure up images of musicals or films in which they’ve worked together.
They do a lot of solo work here, and each had moments that transported us. Eder dug deep with “Stormy Weather”, Feinstein came right back at her with “When The Sun Comes Out”, then they put them together and hit pay dirt.
He handled his own melody beautifully on “There’s You” which is blessed with a fine lyric by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Eder, who has had a long personal and professional relationship with composer Frank Wildhorn, had less fortunate material in “The Mad Hatter”, a wild song from the late unlamented Broadway musical Wonderland. Again, she tackled an ode called “No Finer Man” which was something Roxanne sang about Cyrano in another Wildhorn musical. It’s an elaborately structured poem, and she had the vocal chops to give it meaning, but it’s probably more effective when performed within the framework of the story it tells.
Feinstein steals the show with his “request section” in which he asks for four titles from the audience, using composers from the golden age of pop music. The crowd requested “I’ll Take Romance”, “Ask Me Again”, “When I Fall In Love”, and (in the ‘anything by Sondheim’ category), “Losing My Mind.”
When he’d noted the four titles, he sauntered over to the piano, sat himself down, and delivered them all with consummate skill, never glancing at the keyboard, yet striking lovely complicated arrangements of the lush and romantic melodies, while remembering all but a couple of the wise, witty and winning lyrics. And when he fluffed, he filled in with all the skill of a thorough pro, totally at home, in full command of his voice, piano, and audience. It brought roars of a approval (well, nowadays it’s a lot of “woo-woos” where “bravo” used to live).
All in all, “Two for the Road” is a rollicking good show. The one caveat I have is that Michael Feinstein has evolved through the years into a consummate cabaret performer, developing a personality that is informal, amusing, self-deprecating, appealing – a star. Ms. Eder has a glorious voice and she uses it well– but she’s not as comfortable onstage as he is. Though he is by no means a dancer, he seems to be having fun as he moves to the music, where she projects the image of an excellent recording artist floundering a bit when removed from the microphone booth. Only a small quibble, for I moved out into the late night early fall air, enriched and satisfied. But I’m going to try to return later this month when Michael Feinstein takes the stage all by himself or in November when he shares it with the equally legendary Barbara Cook. Now there is a couple that could go rollicking down the road, two by two.
Michael Feinstein and Linda Eder perform together in “Two for the Road through this month at the Regency and also split into solo shows. Here’s the calendar. Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, 540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street), NYC.