The Two of Clubs
Hot Shows at Feinstein's ...
Feinstein's at the Loews Regency has upped the ante in the realm of major nightlife engagements. They don't just the book the room, they supersize it, creating one "event" booking after another. Some events fizzle and other flourish, but the excitement level is consistently very high at this very hot nightspot. Consider who has just performed and who is soon to be on the Feinstein's stage ... Brian Stokes Mitchell, followed by Chita Rivera were the most recent superstars to grace the room. Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame is poised to come in to Feinstein's next, while Mr. Feinstein himself will be playing the Regency's ballroom with his 17-piece band in a reprise of his heralded Sinatra Project.
Stokes Packs the House at Feinstein's
The title of the act that Brian Stokes Mitchell performed at Feinstein's a few weeks was Songs ... I Like To Sing. It was ironic because the title suggests a certain self-indulgence on his part when, in fact, he performed some of his most famous theater songs; the very material the audience had hoped he would sing. These are also the very same songs he did not sing in his original award-winning show at Feinstein's, among them, "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime (movingly coupled with "America the Beautiful") and "The Impossible Dream" (Man of La Mancha). These songs, Stokes, readily conceded, were made part of the show since the election because now they meant so very much more.
Despite the title, the act also boasted a very high percentage of standards, including "I've Got You Under My Skin," "The Nearness of You" and, with a nod to contemporary songwriting, John Bucchino's "Unexpressed." When all was said and done, the title of the act might have been, Songs ...We Want to Hear.
Stokes only played from November 11 thru November 15, packing the house at every performance. He could have run for a month. In short, his booking was an event ...
Chita at Feinstein's right now
There is only one Chita Rivera. The opportunity to see her up close and personal at Feinstein's is a special treat for her legion of fans. She has show business in her bones and watching her makes you feel young again. Hovering somewhere around 75 years old, she displays more energy, more fire, and more ferocity than so-called "hot" entertainers less than half her age. You get the high combustion, of course, on numbers like "Big Spender," but the lovely revelation of an evening like this is discovering that Chita on a ballad is stunning. Her performance of "I Don't Remember You," for instance, is heartbreaking.
Be forewarned that the act's opening number is "I Won't Dance" coupled with "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy." Chita means it. Neither the stage, nor her disposition, lends itself to turning this show into a nightclub dance act; it's all about her singing. That voice might not be pretty, but man can she sell a song. Chita opened on November 18th and continues to run through November 29th.
Audiences do not Tire of Tyrell
Steve Tyrell just signed a three-year contract to appear at The Café Carlyle. That club's booking approach is very different from Feinstein's. Rather than short, high profile acts, The Café Carlyle likes to book a big star and let him or her sit there for a long time. Tyrell, for example opened at the beginning of November and will play the club through New Year's Eve.
Tyrell has toned down his good ol' boy approach to performing. He does far less inappropriate winking and waving to audience members while singing a sad ballad than he did when we saw him years ago at Feinstein's. He has evolved, over the years, into the tried and true form of a saloon singer.
Less an actor than he is a song stylist, Tyrell depends upon the rich wail in his voice to evoke an emotion. He's an amiable storyteller, peppering his patter with his own history of what the songs in his show mean to him. More than his acting, his stories tend to shape our reaction to his songs. A good example is his passion for Ray Charles, a boyhood idol. By the time he sings one of Charles' songs, we are so invested in Tyrell's connection to his idol that the battle is already half won. The cry in Tyrell's voice does the rest.
His latter day career as a singer is the result of having performed on the soundtracks of several hit movies, beginning with Father of the Bride. Tyrell talks about how those songs were chosen and how he ended up singing them in the movies. The film connection gives his act a contemporary feel even as he sings songs that tend to be standards from an earlier age. In that sense, he gets to be both new and old at the same time, which is clearly part of why he is so successful.