Michael Feinstein: The Piano Man Comes Back

Finding a new power of two with Dame Edna in Broadway’s All About Me, the “Ambassador of the Great American Songbook” talks all about his anger with The Advocate and Kevin Spacey.




I have no idea how to segue from that story, but let’s move on and discuss All About Me. Even with Next Fall and La Cage aux Folles on the boards, it may just be the gayest show on Broadway this season.
Yes, who would’ve thought? Well, I would’ve. It definitely has a niche appeal to discriminating young men and women.

Have you and Dame Edna determined which of you has the bigger gay following?
We don’t need to have that discussion because it’s a given that they’re both very big.

Out playwright Christopher Durang, who cowrote All About Me’s book, recently spoke to The Advocate and described you as “kind of the Alice in Wonderland seminormal person” of the show. Do you see it that way?
Well, I don’t know what normal is, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

Your earnestness does make an amusing foil for Edna’s over-the-top sarcasm and irreverence. “Chocolate and peanut butter” definitely doesn’t describe it, so what do you two go together like?
In the show we sing a song with the lyric “We may be like oil and water, Alec Baldwin and his daughter, but we get along amazingly well.” That about says it.

There’s a moment in the show where you talk about growing up “different” and finding a friend in show tunes, movie musicals, and the Great American Songbook — something the gay audience can certainly relate to.
I just knew that I had a sensibility that was different from most of the people around me. Part of it was sexuality, which became more apparent as I got older, even though I remember being attracted to men as early as 5 years old. Why there’s a heightened appreciation of irony, camp, and art is something I can’t answer except to say that there’s definitely a sensibility that has greatly enriched our world. If you were to remove anything that had a homosexual influence, you’d have a very barren world. If only these people who are so vocally against homosexuality realized the extraordinary scope of what the homosexual influence has created.

Like Paul Lynde, to whom you pay tribute in the show before singing “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” from Bye Bye Birdie.
I’ve always liked that song, and I always think of Paul Lynde when I think of Bye Bye Birdie because that’s when I first discovered him. I later met him in California. He was always drunk and mean, but that didn’t change his sense of humor, which was wonderful.

You’ve been known to change the gender pronouns of traditionally female-sung songs, perhaps most notably on your 1987 Gershwin album when you changed “The Man I Love” to “The Girl I Love.” In All About Me you sing “As Long as He Needs Me” from Oliver as “As Long as She Needs Me." I mean, if you can’t leave the lyrics alone in a Dame Edna show, where can you?
Casey Nicholaw, our director, said, “Do whatever you want,” so I was singing it as “As Long as He Needs Me.” But several people said they wanted to hear me do it as “she” because they felt that “he” would distract some people in the audience. I said, “Who cares?” But some nights I sing it as “he” and some nights I sing it as “she.”

Tags: Music