Singer, pianist, and widely-regarded “ambassador of the Great American Songbook,” Michael Feinstein is also well-known in nightclub circles, with two locales —Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York and Feinstein’s at the Nikko in San Francisco — both earning fans and topping favorites lists for their supper club ambiance and impressive mix of performers playing an array of lounge, standards and jazz.
Seems like a no-brainer that Feinstein would bring his winning formula to L.A., but he hadn’t, until now. He’s just partnered with Vitello’s in Studio City, to present a new space showcasing all the old school style and melodious material he’s known for. And his big name friends popping in too. This is Hollywood after all.
Opening week will feature sets by Feinstein himself (Fri.- Sat., June 14-15) plus legendary artists on subsequent nights including power ballad queen Melissa Manchester, funnyman Kevin Nealon (SNL, Weeds), beloved actresses Jane Lynch (Glee and million other things) and Kate Flannery (The Office) performing together, John Lloyd Young (Jersey Boys, Glee) Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Jazz songstress Jane Monheit and many more.
Formerly called “Upstairs at Vitello’s,” Feinstein’s at Vitello’s is above the famed restaurant, which became known decades ago as the spot Robert Blake (aka TV’s Baretta) took his wife Bonny Lee Bakely for dinner before she was killed. The place got name-checked by media a lot back then, but nothing actually happened at the restaurant and it continued to be a favorite with locals and entertainer types even after the tabloid tragedy.
There has always been an “old Hollywood” vibe to the place since it opened, regardless. And now, with a bonafide music star at the helm, the locale should only get more amplified. The decor is sophisticated but relaxed with exposed brick walls, chandeliers and colorful art. Liza’s lounge, adjacent to the supper club, and open pre- and post-show, features hand crafted cocktails and small bites in 1950s-themed room with four eye-catching Liza Minnelli art pieces adding whimsical pop to the main wall. With a nod to the past, when supper clubs were all the rage and you never knew who from the showbiz world might take the stage to croon after a couple cocktails, Feinstein’s has seemingly found a perfect home in the dark and cozy, 125-seat second level venue, which provides an intimate setting and full dinner menu during the show.
“Music is my deep passion and this is a magnificent opportunity to create a new and exciting nightclub in Los Angeles,” Feinstein tells L.A. Weekly by email. “A few years ago, I had heard about the performance space at Vitello’s and my first impression was so taken with the whole experience, from the welcoming atmosphere, to the marvelous food and service and of course the nightclub.”
Feinstein says his time in countless piano bars and nightclubs has enabled him to have a unique understanding of what makes a room work, and the entertainment provided is only part of it. “There’s always something indefinable and magical about what makes a great club and I got excited when I discovered Vitello’s,” he says. “…I learned that people crave the personal contact and connection of a room that is smaller because it creates the most honest kind of art.”
The singer will perform throughout the year and he plans to feature performers who appear regularly at his NYC and San Fran spots too. Many of the most popular acts from the previous Upstairs at Vitelllo’s days will remain as well.
“With the enhancements we’re adding to the space, I feel that Feinstein’s at Vitello’s has the potential to become the premiere nightclub in Los Angeles,” the singer predicts. “It’s going to be a party every night!”
Vitello’s, 4349 Tujunga Blvd., Studio City. Full schedule at feinsteinsatvitellos.com