Michael Feinstein Opens Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael
Though the ongoing pandemic has impacted the timeline for highly anticipated shows and select entertainment, Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael is officially opening in January 2021. This upscale and unique cabaret was developed in partnership with multiplatinum-selling, two-time Emmy and five-time Grammy Award-nominated entertainer Michael Feinstein. Feinstein serves as artistic director of the Center for the Performing Arts and is founder of the Great American Songbook Foundation headquartered in Carmel. Feinstein’s is modeled after the legendary Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Feinstein, once again, and we discussed the concept of a cabaret, the genesis of opening a signature club in Carmel and his vision for the club as we continue to push through the pandemic and plan for the not-so-distant future!
As we look forward to the live music, elevated menus and a refined bar and spirits selection, what types of entertainment do you envision will be performing at Feinstein’s, as well as other purposes for the room?
One of the wonderful things about a nightclub is that the potential is limitless. This room [Feinstein’s] was purpose-built as a room for entertainment. It is really a culmination of experience that I’ve had working in so many other rooms, and it has state-of-the-art sound and lighting. The spacing of the tables, the comfort of the furniture in the room, the design, all of those elements have been very carefully curated to make it a space that will be welcoming and conducive to making a connection between the performer and the audience.
As far as the entertainment—it’s going to be quite eclectic because we will indeed have nightclub shows in the sense that some people might visualize a nightclub, but we also want to have after-hours jazz [sessions] and special events in the daytime. We want to be able to use the room for all different kinds of purposes, where people can gather in an intimate space and enjoy the feeling of connection and comfort that this room will hopefully offer.
Will there be any collaboration with the Center for the Performing Arts and/or the Great American Songbook Foundation as well as other local talent?
I have all kinds of ideas about different types of entertainment that can be featured in the room. For example, I think it would be wonderful to have ‘Talent Night’ one night a week and create an ongoing experience for the community to participate. I have spoken with the staff at the Center for Performing Arts about creating this. We could also have a night where we feature music that is part of a collection of the Great American Songbook. We have this amazing archive of orchestration and Big Band charts. I was thinking how great it would be to have one night a week Big Band Night, and maybe have students from different music schools from local universities or other fine musicians that reside in the area as guest performers.
You mentioned utilizing the room for other events and activities during the daytime. Would this space be available for private functions and meeting space as well?
There is so much potential that it’s dizzying. We can have different events for charities and causes as well as for special events. And of course, we have the private dining room that has a wall that opens up to the entertainment space. So, one can have a special event where you have dinner in a private space and then the wall opens up to the nightclub room so you can see the show.
How was Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael inspired by your NYC club, Feinstein’s/54 Below?
One of the things that’s great about New York is that if you go to the theater or you go out on the town someplace, often—later in the evening—people want to hear music or have a place where they can wind down. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a place where people could come after going to a show at the Center for the Performing Arts or the Tarkington? Just to have a place where people can congregate after, enjoy a jazz group or live music, and this [Feinstein’s] could be another option for people. I think it will extend the pleasure of whatever experience they had earlier.
For those who have enjoyed an evening at a nightclub such as Feinstein’s/54 Below, they will automatically get the concept, but please share with us what a cabaret truly is.
There are probably people who don’t know exactly what a cabaret is, and they may have some preconceived notions that are not necessarily accurate. Which reminds me, on the rare occasion that I watched “American Idol,” Simon Cowell would sometimes criticize a singer and say, “Oh, that’s so cabaret,” and I thought, is that not the most ignorant statement to make? To him [Cowell], that was an insult, but then I thought, he doesn’t know what a cabaret is. It is a physical space where any kind of music is performed, so how can you criticize someone by saying that “It’s so cabaret”? What does that even mean? That’s like saying, “That’s so Empire State Building.”
A cabaret is really what people make it. There will be all different kinds of musical experiences and live acts such as comedians, so the sky is the limit. The types of entertainment will be determined by the community. I’ve discovered with every nightclub that I’ve been involved with that after you open, you find what people want. Every community has a preference for the kind of entertainment they want, so we’ll figure it out.
You could have picked any major city in any part of the nation to open another signature club. Why Carmel? Why the Hotel Carmichael?
When I became aware of the type of hotel the Carmichael was to be—an upscale design—which in my book means elegant yet comfortable, it occurred to me that this would be a marvelous place to have a club because of the proximity to so many other wonderful venues nearby.
In addition to adding another layer of fun and entertainment, Feinstein’s is within walking distance to several retail shops and restaurants. Is it a goal for City Center businesses, Hotel Carmichael/Feinstein’s, and the Center for Performing Arts to cross-promote each other and make it a destination for visitors and residents of Carmel alike?
Well, that’s the hope. We want to help expand what’s happening here and add to it in whatever way that we can.
What can we, the community, and devoted fans of yours, do amid the pandemic to help with this endeavor so that when we can all come out and be together again, we can help make Feinstein’s an outstanding success?
Generally supporting the arts is important because it is, to me, just as fundamental as the three Rs: reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. The arts are part of a community’s identity. They create unity and harmony—no pun intended. The arts connect us on a heart level that puts aside everything else and helps us to see the common connection that we all have. For me, this has been a time of recalibration. It is a time to look inward and see what we need to change in our lives because the planet is clearly giving us a message that we have to make changes, and it starts with each individual. I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at myself and trying to be a better person and figure out what I can do to help make the world better for other people. Because this [pandemic] has dramatically demonstrated that there is no separation between any of us.