Michael Feinstein's program of a dozen Oscar winners, losers and oversights from bygone eras will restore anyone's lost faith in just how fabulous the music for the movies used to be.

Michael Feinstein’s program of a dozen Oscar winners, losers and oversights from bygone eras will restore anyone’s lost faith in just how fabulous the music for the movies used to be. In fine fettle and full-throated voice, Feinstein delivered an impressive array Tuesday of classics ranging from a rollicking “Hoorah for Hollywood” and a full-throttle “Thanks for the Memory” to a wistful “Two for the Road” and a heartfelt “The Way You Look Tonight.” It’s a long way from Eminem.

Feinstein’s at the Cinegrill, in what used to be the basement of the newly restored Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, was christened Tuesday and it provides a perfect intimate setting.

“I’ve always had a fantasy about having a club in Hollywood, so now I’m bicoastal,” the singer-pianist told the celeb-saturated opening night audience. He also owns Feinstein’s at the Regency in New York.

Throughout the 90-minute performance Feinstein’s infectious love of the movies and their music was on display: He peppered the show with tidbits about the songs and songwriters — and how or why they won or lost the Oscar — alternating upbeat showstoppers and wistful ballads.

About Cole Porter he pointed out that, though thrice-nommed in a career that spanned three decades of movie-music success, he never won. He then slid into the witty “Now You Has Jazz” from “Anything Goes.”

Occasional clips or montages appeared on unobtrusive screens, including footage of Ira and George Gershwin, Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers.

A duet with guitarist Jim Fox on the Ray Evans-Jay Livingston classic “Mona Lisa” was particularly poignant; a rendition of Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road” — “a good one,” Feinstein said, “that slipped away” and was never Oscar-nommed — was exquisitely rendered. Most moving perhaps was Feinstein’s version of Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” a nominee from “Best Friends” (1982), the most recent among the selections performed.

Even the words of the oft-performed Gershwin classic “You Can’t Take That Away From Me” seemed newly interpreted by Feinstein.

As a songwriters’ champion, Feinstein’s emphasis, at least last night, was more on pulling out the words from the page and writing them large than it was on re-interpreting the musical notes.

Pacing of the show was flawless, with dashings of the crooner’s elfin humor and amusing Oscar lore adding just the right flavor to the songs themselves.

From the huge Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen oeuvre, Feinstein selected “My Kind of Town,” a 1964 nominee from “Robin and the Seven Hoods.” From Harry Warren — 17 noms and three wins — he belted out with gusto the composer’s first win, the 1935 hit “Lullaby of Broadway.”

Feinstein even offered up his own boogie woogie piano rendition of the improbable nominee in 1942, “Pig-Foot Pete,” which lost out to “White Christmas.”

Feinstein’s at the Cinegrill is a tier-leveled intimate supper club reminiscent of rooms from the ’40s, except that the food is lighter, the acoustics are better and no smoke rings waft to the ceiling.

Opening night audience included Henry Mancini’s widow Ginny, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall, the songwriting team of the Bergmans, the owner of K-SURF, the radio station that’s bringing the Great American Songbook to life here in L.A. and prominently features Feinstein recordings, and Red Buttons.

Michael Feinstein

Feinstein's at the Cinegrill; 150 capacity; $50

Production

Presented by Allen Sviridoff. Opened and reviewed March 25, 2003; closes April 26.

Cast

Band: Michael Feinstein, Chuck Berghofer, Albie Berk, Jim Fox, Gary Foster, Warren Luening, John Oddo.
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