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Review: Feinstein, Sedaka, Botti etc. at Palladium gala

January 29, 2011

There were expectations ("perfect sound" touted the marketing message), rumors (on the way into the theater, someone asked me if I knew that Elton John was going to show up), and evening gowns and tuxes galore.

An hour or so ago, the stars of the gala concert for the Palladium took their bows and the patrons headed off to dinner and a party that will continue late into the evening.

They have a lot to celebrate. And I'll have more to say about the house that Carmel built in the upcoming print IBJ.

For now, though, let's talk about the concert.

After the expected speeches were made, the crowd stood for a color guard arrival and then awkwardly remained on its feet through the Carmel Symphony Orchestra's performance of Ferde Grofe's "March for Americans." Then Center for the Performing Arts Artistic Director Michael Feinstein took the stage with "Once in a Lifetime," the Sammy Davis, Jr. staple from the musical "Stop the World I Want to Get Off." It's a tricky song to pull off, especially in this context, without sounding egotistical. ("This is my moment... I'm gonna do great things") but Feinstein was in good voice and the symphony players stepped up to the task.

Following "My Romance," Feinstein took to emcee duties, which unfortunately meant the use of index cards, leaving a bit of a final rehearsal feeling. Guest Cheyenne Jackson was brought into the act as a shadow emcee, with the pretense that he was learning the ropes from the more experienced Feinstein. A fun idea, leading to some playful interplay. (After Feinstein mentioned the song "Where the Boys Are," Jackson added, "One of your favorites," which Feinstein topped with "It's a new day in Carmel, ladies and gentlemen.")

Jackson, star of Broadway's "Finian's Rainbow" and "All Shook Up," then took over for a short set that included a swinging "Don't Get Around Much Anymore."

Next up was Chris Botti and his combo, whose two-number set was strong (including a short, low-key take on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah") but left me wanting much more. While all the acts had wonderful things to say about the Palladium, Botti dug himself a hole when he inadvertently referred to Carmel as "the middle of nowhere."

The best known of the acts were saved for last. The justifiably praised acoustics were not a friend to Dionne Warwick's voice, as she valiantly offered her hits "What the World Needs Now," "Alfie," and "That's What Friends Are For." Neil Sedaka, in turn, was like a friendly uncle taking the piano to offer approximations of "Laughter in the Rain," "Calendar Girl," and a mix of both the slow and speedy versions of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do."

And while some "Jersey Shore" jokes fell flat, Feinstein and Jackson gave a pick-me-up spin to "Me and My Shadow," with "Woody's"--just down the road on Carmel's main drag--dropped into the lyrics as the drinkery of note.

It may have been wiser to end the concert there. Instead, Feinstein stayed on for a double hit of "For All We Know" and an oddly husky "I'll Be Seeing You," then followed that with  "We Dreamed These Days," written with Maya Angelou. In theory, the number incorporated the Indianapolis Children's Choir which, unfortunately, was sonically lost behind the full-throttle Carmel Symphony Orchestra and the amplified Feinstein. Even in a world of outstanding acoustics, sound mixing is key.

All in all, a strong if not exhilarating way to launch a venue that I plan on spending a lot of time in over the coming years. In fact, I'll be there again in less than 24 hours at the performance by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

I only hope that, at future shows, those seated in the seats behind the stage realize that their flash photography means annoying lights in the rest of the audience's eyes.

Look for more in the February 7 IBJ. For a full schedule of upcoming shows at the Palladium, click here.

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