The 2010 Nobel Prizes were given out a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve already got next year’s top contender for best chemistry: Michael Feinstein and Cheyenne Jackson, for making their dynamite duo debut at Carnegie Hall.
Michael Feinstein and Cheyenne Jackson
(Linda Lenzi/Broadway World)
Called “The Power of Two,” this electrifying evening last Friday was based on their cabaret act from June 2009 at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency in New York City. For Carnegie, however, this charismatic combo added about a half-dozen songs, backed by a swingy, 17-piece band, masterfully music-directed by John Oddo, who also did the arrangements.
“The Power of Two” is a study in contrasts. Feinstein, 54, is the king of cabaret, a music historian and host of PBS’ American Songbook series. Jackson, 35, is the Broadway matinee idol of All Shook Up and Finian’s Rainbow and a TV star of 30 Rock and Glee.
Also, Feinstein’s Jewish, and Jackson’s gentile. Still, they share much more: a passion for pop music, powerful pipes and impeccable phrasing. Plus, they’re both openly gay.
And all of those factors worked in perfect harmony for Feinstein and Jackson. Just take their rhapsodic rendition of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein’s “We Kiss in a Shadow.”
Without changing a lyric, they turned a romantic duet for Lun Tha and Tuptim, the clandestine lovers in The King and I, into an out-and-proud anthem to gay liberation (“To kiss in the sunlight and say to the sky, ‘Behold and believe what you see!’”).
It’s unlikely the Carnegie Hall crowd, which was older, white and straight, has ever seen two openly gay men sing a gorgeous love duet on that historic stage, but they gave “We Kiss in a Shadow” the evening’s longest and most rousing round of applause.
Similarly, Jackson stopped the show in Act I with the Gershwins’ “Someone to Watch Over Me.” First, he dedicated the tune to Monte Lapka, his partner of over 10 years. Then he sat down on the lip of the Carnegie stage (a la Judy Garland) and quipped to a front-row patron: “Pardon my crotch.”
Backed only by Feinstein’s sensitive accompaniment at the keyboard, the 6-foot-3 hunk sang ever so sweetly, with a strength and a tenderness that was touching to behold: “There’s a somebody I’m longin’ to see. I hope that he turns out to be someone who’ll watch over me.”
Jackson expressed something so honest and universal, and his heartfelt crooning left everyone swooning, gay or straight.
“The Power of Two” duo also tackled a pair of Harold Arlen-Ted Koehler torch songs that have been associated with the likes of Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand.
(Photo courtesy of Steve J. Sherman)
Jackson whipped up “Stormy Weather” (“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather, since my man and I ain’t together”), and Feinstein lit into “When the Sun Comes Out” (“That ol’ storm broke out and my man walked off and left me in the rain”). Together, they sang up a gale and blew us the roof off the place.
Though “The Power of Two” has come out on CD on Harbinger Records, the live concert offered the bonus of their breezy banter.
Jackson asked his co-star: “What did you first see me in?” Feinstein joked, “Your shorts … in Xanadu. The latter also scored laughs with his delightfully impish impressions of Peter Lorre and Paul Lynde.
The evening’s only real glitch was its amplification. At times during Act I, the sound was either echoey or muffled. Fortunately, it got fixed in Act II. But if there’s anything we’d love to hear after catching their Carnegie concert, it would be the news that someday PBS will tape Feinstein and Jackson’s next show. Now that would be music to our ears!
The song list from “The Power of Two” concert at Carnegie:
“You’re Nothing Without Me” – Feinstein and Jackson
“Me and My Shadow” – Feinstein and Jackson
“Old Friend” – Feinstein
“The Power of Two” – Feinstein and Jackson
“I’m Checkin’ Out, Goombye” – Jackson
“Someone to Watch Over Me” – Jackson
“A Foggy Day” – Jackson
“So in Love” – Feinstein
“Stormy Weather”/“When the Sun Comes Out” – Feinstein and Jackson
“There’ll Be Some Changes Made” – Feinstein and Jackson
“How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” – Feinstein
“Old Devil Moon” – Jackson
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” – Feinstein
“I Get Along Without You Very Well”/“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” – Jackson
“We Kiss in a Shadow”/“I Have Dreamed” – Feinstein and Jackson
“Put on a Happy Face”/ “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” – Feinstein
“If I Can Dream” – Feinstein and Jackson
“All the Beautiful Strangers”/“Over the Rainbow” – Feinstein and Jackson
(Wong edits entertainment for the New York Daily News. He also is the former “Leading Men” columnist for Playbill.com and a Drama-Logue Award-winning playwright.)