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Sutton Foster Opens Feinstein’s at the Nikko

May 12th, 2013

Our new West Coast correspondent, Heather Cassell, catches the premiere act at the new Feinstein’s at the Nikko.

Sutton Foster (photo: Laura Marie Duncan)

San Francisco doesn’t know anything about a woman’s desperate need for air conditioning in a sweltering New York summer, but Sutton Foster heats up the room causing a need for a burst of cool air at the new Feinstien’s at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco.

Foster broke the proverbial bottle of champagne to a sold out crowd opening night on May 8 and you can still catch one final performance through May 12. If you miss her, she’s destined to return to the newly opened cabaret.

Belting out the busty overture to finding a man with an air conditioner to escape the sweltering heat, Foster leaves the room roaring in laughter as many of her songs this evening do. The two-time Tony-award winning Broadway star Foster treats us to beloved show tunes and tongue-in-cheek racy original ballads from her forthcoming album composed with musical collaborator Michael Rafter, who accompanies her on the piano this evening.

It’s an exemplary evening with Foster singing hit Broadway songs from Anything GoesLittle Women, Annie,  The Drowsy Chaperone, and Thoroughly Modern Millie to yesteryears hits, such as John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders” to name a few out of her 18-song performance. She delights us with her opening with a mash-up of her signature musical theater songs, displaying her impressive soprano voice that swiftly drops into an alto tone. It is clear that she enjoys not only playing with her voice, but also with songs about single women — alternating between broadsy female anthems to soft and tender love songs.

Away from the lights of Broadway and Hollywood, she’s left the humidity of New York after 15 years for the dry desert heat of Los Angeles for her new show, ”Bunheads”, which airs June 11. In a performance was intimate, personal and humble, she gushed that she didn’t miss New York as she feared she would, but instead she loves L.A. At one point during the show she brought the man in her life, her dog Linus, up on to the stage. He sat in her lap as she sang one of her favorite new songs on her forthcoming album a medley of “It Only Takes a Moment” and “Time After Time” they end the performance with a double hi-five.

Dressed in a simple blue dress with beige heals and her wavy brown locks easily tumbling down her back, it is almost as if she returned to being the 17-year-old girl who first performed in the first national tour of  The Will Rogers Follies at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. That was many years ago and many performances later, including a brief cabaret in San Francisco a few years ago, as she’s now clearly an accomplished artist that we will hopefully see more of in the near future.

Foster attracts star power from Broadway and the small screen, my girlfriend and I spotted Florence Henderson, from the 1970’s “Brady Bunch” fame, but who is an accomplished singer in her own right, to many music and theater admirers to the cabaret that once was the home of the now closed Live at the Rrazz Room.

A popular cabaret for the past 14 years in New York, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, closed at the beginning of this year at the same time as Feinstein’s at the Nikko emerged. Feinstein’s in New York and San Francisco is lead by the venerable Michael Feinstein, a renowned singer, pianist, and bearer of the Great American Songbook.

Foster is the perfect opener to satiate the void left by the closing of the beloved musical outlet, the Rrazz Room. If the forthcoming performers to grace Feinstein’s stage in the coming month – Mitzi Gaynor (May 15 – 18), Spencer Day (May 23 – 25), Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway (May 29 – June 2), Andrea Marcovicci (June 7 and 8), Clint Holmes (June 12 – 16), Barbara Cook (June 19 – 23) and Steve Tyrell (June 25 – 29) – are any indication of the high quality talent that will come to the Nikko Hotel, we will be mostly satisfied.

The only question is: Will Feinstein’s also showcase Broadway stars along with many of the same LGBT performers that made the Rrazz Room beloved by San Franciscans and unique in the cabaret world? The answer remains to be seen.

Sutton Foster’s final performance is Sunday, May 12, 7 Feinstein’s at the Nikko Hotel, 222 Mason St., San Francisco. Tickets $75 – $95.

Can’t catch Foster’s final show tonight? Here’s one of our favorite clips:

Heather Cassell is a freelance journalist and travel writer with more than 20 years experience covering LGBT and women’s issues. When Heather isn’t wandering off learning and writing about women’s and LGBT issues, she covers business, health and other news for a number of publications as well as the syndicated “Out in the World” international LGBT news column.

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