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Michael Feinstein Returns To His New York Artistic Home At Feinstein's/54 Below

Jeryl Brunner

Michael Feinstein is returning to his artistic home and the club that bears his name, Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Michael FeinsteinCourtesy Feinstein's/54 Below

With his brand new show, Summertime Swing!, the multi-platinum Grammy-nominated artist celebrates songs, entertainers, and musical history. Feinstein takes the audience on a musical journey of Broadway’s showstoppers and swinging musical standards. The energy never stops.

Throughout his career, Feinstein has always had a connection with the people who sing showstoppers. In the 1980s when he was beginning to perform composer and lyricist Harry Warren introduced him to one of the greatest vocalists of the post-war era, Margaret Whiting. “Harry Warren said, ‘this is a talented kid.’ And Margaret said, ‘well, if you ever come to New York call me. And she wrote down “Margaret Whiting girl singer, Plaza 3 8084.””

Feinstein who at the time was living in Los Angeles called Whiting when he came to New York. “She said, come on kid. And she took me around.” Whiting, who had more than dozen gold records, (“That Old Black Magic,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “It Might as Well Be Spring,” “Come Rain or Come Shine”), and was the ultimate cabaret singer, took Feinstein under her wing. “She did that for a lot of people,” he says.

The experience with Whiting turned out to be life changing. “She took me around to all the night clubs and places that were happening,” She introduced him to countless artists from Mabel Mercer to  Bobby Short. “It was a community that was so special. All of these performers were embracing songs and music that were specific to this place. Not necessarily in theme, but in style, in content, in the aesthetic. I realized that there were a lot of people today that never experienced that. So musically I want to try and recreate that.”

Feinstein has continued to create that and more. And having a club named after him continues to amaze him even after many years. “It's a lovely thing,” he says. "I try never to take it for granted. It's a great club. And seeing the community that has been created around this place with the staff and he people who come here to perform, it’s a family. As cliche as that may sound, it really is a microcosm of something very beautiful.”

When did you know you had to perform?

Michael Feinstein: It was an evolution. When I was a kid I started playing piano when I was five. I kept doing what I knew how to do. Eventually somebody offered me money for it. So it was a continuum. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized I could make a really good living from music. I did it until I could figure out what else I was going to do because I didn’t think that it was an honest profession. When I realized it was, that was a great joy.

What was one of the first Broadway shows you ever saw?

Michael Feinstein: Growing up in Columbus, Ohio I used to come to New York to visit my great uncle and aunt. My great uncle was the oldest member of the Stagehands Union in New York. He worked at the Morosco Theatre for years. So when I was in my teens I saw shows. Seeing The Shadow Box was life-changing. I saw the play right before I moved to California, met Ira Gershwin and started working for him. When I met Mrs. Gershwin, she said, ‘What shows have you seen?’ I said, ‘I saw The Shadow Box. It’s the greatest show that I’ve ever seen.’ And she looked at me, touched my hand and said, ‘You’re young.’

How does performing fulfill you?

Michael Feinstein: It’s my greatest addiction. Because of my physical makeup and genetically I have less serotonin in my body than most people. My doctor said, ‘I’m surprised that you’re not addicted to drugs or alcohol.’ And I realize I’m not because of music. It has uplifted me and saved my soul.

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New York based journalist who has written for Forbes, Parade, InStyle, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Wall Street Journal. Author of the book "My City, My New York, Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places" and podcaster, ("When Lightning Strikes"). I cover the arts, theater, entertainment, food, travel and people who are motivated by their joy and passion.

New York City, NY

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