Entertainment » Music

Michael Feinstein Goes Bi-Coastal This Summer

by Lewis Whittington
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Wednesday Jul 31, 2013
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Singer-pianist Michael Feinstein is returning to Philly for one night only with the Philadelphia Orchestra as part of their summer concert series on the outdoor stage at the Mann Center in Fairmount Park. Broadway stars Christine Ebersole and Betty Buckley will be joining him onstage.

After that he heads to Tanglewood to play with the Boston Pops with friends Cheyenne Jackson and Faith Prince on August 16. He then heads to the West Coast for a series of concerts in the San Francisco area mid-September before ending the month in the Midwest (in Springfield, Ohio).

Feinstein spoke from his home in Los Angeles earlier this month about his upcoming Philly concert his latest CD (a collection of Andre Previn songs) and LGBT marriage. The singer married his partner Terrence Flannery in California in 2008 before Prop 8 went into effect.


Remembering Hamlisch

The singer also recalled his 2011 concert Philly during a blizzard which was conducted by the late Marvin Hamlisch.

"That was something. It was terrible weather, but somehow we got in," he remembered fondly.

Hamlisch died suddenly last August. "Marvin was one of my people," Feinstein said. "His death is something that I find hard to wrap my brain around, because he was the epitome of energy and longevity. It’s another reminder that we must live in every moment we have."

At the time of his death, Hamlisch was the lead conductor of the Pasadena Pops, a position that Feinstein took when the orchestra’s management offered it to him after Hamlisch’s passing. "Michael Feinstein is simply the right fit, having already charmed capacity crowds at the Arboretum," says the orchestra’s CEO Paul Jan Zdunek. "Not only is he a consummate musician, engaging communicator and master entertainer, his lifetime dedication to The Great American Songbook and countless national accomplishments uniquely positions him to build on Marvin’s legacy and lead the Pasadena Pops to new levels of artistic success."


His friends

For this Philly engagement he is joined onstage by two Tony-winning Broadway legends: Christine Ebersole and Betty Buckley. The concert will be conducted by Jack Eberly.

"In Philly I wanted to bring two singers who are not only great exponents of the Great American Songbook, but are also dynamite performers who would be great with the Philadelphia Orchestra. We’ll sing things from contemporary Broadway, (as well as) Bernstein, Porter and certainly...Gershwin. You have to do gorgeous ballads when you have a string section as extraordinary as the Philadelphia Orchestra.

"It’s always very important to me when I put a program together that I make sure the arrangements that are showcases for the orchestra, (that) they are never just accompaniment," he added.

As for working with Eberly, Feinstein said: "He’s a friend and a great musician. I think he’s planning the overtures from ’Gypsy’ and ’Funny Girl,’ so there will be some shining moments for just orchestra."


Working with Andre

Feinstein is seemingly everywhere these days. The 3rd installment of his PBS series Great American Songbook aired last spring and just weeks ago he performed with Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which Feinstein characterized as "a special thrill."

His newest new recording highlights the work of another musician that bridges the pop and classical worlds: "Change of Heart: The Songs of Andre Previn."

On the CD, available in stores and online, Feinstein provides the vocals to the accompaniment of Previn (on piano) and David Finck on bass.

"I wanted to serve the content of the songs. The way Andre was playing the songs and the lyrics are so introspective. To have the opportunity to present his known songs, but especially ones that haven’t been recorded, was very important to me. I didn’t do that as a commercial venture, but to preserve great music with the composer at the piano," Feinstein explained.

"The way Andre was playing the songs and many of the lyrics are so introspective. So I wanted to serve the content of the songs. To have the opportunity to present his known songs, but especially ones that haven’t been recorded was very important to me. I didn’t do that as a commercial venture, but to preserve great music with the composer at the piano," Feinstein said.


A new musical

Feinstein continues to develop several new projects including his new musical "The Gold Room," now slated to open in London’s West End early next year. He says he feels lucky to be able to do work on several musical projects at once. "I do feel sometimes that there aren’t enough hours in the day, I’m lucky enough to be able to do a lot of different things, grab opportunities as they come. And I don’t want regrets later, so that is the key for me."

On the personal side, Feinstein addressed issues surrounding LGBT equality.

"It’s shocking to me that equality is met with such resistance and yet we are all seeing this evolution. Terrance and I are happy with the progress, it’s daunting to see that there are more hurtling to overcome, but we have so many issues festering in our country. With racism still on a level that it is hard to fathom. Submerged, maybe, but still very much there. And with the cruelty in the world, its something that makes me redouble my efforts to live from a viewpoint of hope and peace," and without doubt with many songs in his heart.

The Philadelphia Orchestra with Michael Feinstein and friends August 2 at the Mann Center; for complete information go to visit the Mann Center website.

Other upcoming dates include Tanglewood with the Boston Pops with Cheyenne Jackson and Faith Prince, August 16, 2013; the Pasadena Pops, September 7, 2013; Feinstein’s At The Nikko, San Francisco, September 10-11 and 14-15, 2013; Sunset Cultural Center, Carmel, CA, Sept 12, 2013; Springfield, Ohio, September 28, 2013.

For more on Michael Feinstein, visit his website.


Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.

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