In his return to his Park Avenue digs, Michael Feinstein combines a touching and heartfelt tribute to Bobby Short with his usual high-octane performance style. Both cabaret legends built careers on an enthusiastic dedication to entertaining the patrons, and “Celebrating Bobby Short” entertains while celebrating.
The evening begins with “Guess Who’s in Town,” one of Short’s favorites, and sails along from there. The two singers specialize in songs from the same songbook, but different pages: Cole Porter was to Short as the Gershwins are to Feinstein. This affords Feinstein the opportunity to assemble a somewhat different program than usual, with six songs by Porter. Short’s favorite composers, we are told, were Porter and the two Dukes: Vernon and Ellington. This is a pretty elite trio, and with the addition of a few assorted interlopers (like Arlen and Sondheim), Feinstein comes up with a flavorful and winning evening.
Mixed in are several stories — including an especially affecting tale of Porter thanking Short for playing his songs — plus a rollicking audience sing-along to the tune of “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.”
Special guests are lined up for each night. The opening featured Elaine Stritch, who did a customized duet cannily mixing Sondheim’s Bobby-baby chant (from the opening of “Company”) with “Feeling Sentimental” (from the Gershwins’ “Show Girl”). Full lineup is yet to be announced, but among those scheduled are Liza Minnelli and, on Tuesday, Wynton Marsalis.
Through it all, Short, the longtime pillar of the New York cabaret scene, looks on from above — from three oversized black-and-white shots affixed to the wall. He looks might pleased.