Garrison Keillor’s New York

Garrison KeillorAppearing in the elegant Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, Garrison Keillor is engaging, maddening, entertaining, and just about perfect. The maddening first – Keillor is a storyteller who sings, and this is a singing nightclub act. He’s musical to a fault, and has a breadth of knowledge about American song that approaches his host’s (Feinstein knows everything about the American songbook). Now and then one longs for a little less personality and a little more legato… but who am I to judge…

The storytelling of course, is practiced, and perfect. Guy Noir makes an appearance, which fits better than a trip to Lake Wobegon. And Keillor settles in for a story of lost love that bows to O’Henry, without relinquishing his own place in the narrative firmament. (photo credit: Brian Velenchenko)

It’s a pleasure to spend time in Keillor’s company in this small room, when so much of your experience of him has been either on the radio, or in a big theater, or in the slightly misfiring film that was made of Prairie Home a few years back. Here, Keillor is the host of an intimate party… with accompanist Rich Dworsky ably commanding the Steinway… sharing his favorite songs, telling stories about his first visits to the big city and giving great thanks to the unnamed assistant who rescued his first short story from the slush pile and helped it find a home in The New Yorker. And thus, he says, a career was born.

Favorite moments – the music of Irving Berlin – “All Alone” and “What’ll I Do”; “Save the Last Dance,” by under-appreciated master songwriter Doc Pomus; and settings of sonnets that Keillor himself writes – a CD of these is on the way in 2009.

As any fan knows, Keillor is masterful in blending his voice in perfect harmony. When I saw his show, he had asked his radio guest of the night before, Andra Suchy, to stay on and do a few numbers. Keillor’s harmony sometimes overwhelmed her melody, but, hey, it was his show. “Man in Tux in Red Shoes with Piano” runs Sunday nights through December 28th.

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