Neighbors might borrow a cup of sugar.
Good neighbors might spend a week’s vacation together.
Michael Feinstein and David Hyde Pierce — neighbors in Los Angeles — will spend the entire month of December together at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency nightclub, in what’s billed as a holiday concert.
Peekskill audiences will get a sneak peek of the show on Saturday, when Feinstein, “the ambassador of The Great American Songbook,” and Hyde Pierce, a Tony-winner for “Curtains” who is best known as Niles Crane from TV’s “Frasier,” come to the Paramount Center for the Arts for the act’s East Coast premiere.
The show came about after Feinstein invited his neighbor to appear with him at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Springs.
“When I asked David, he said “I’ve got this fear in the pit of my stomach, which tells me this is something I should do,'” Feinstein recalls with a laugh. Feinstein then suggested they make a month of it, at his Park Avenue cabaret.
The Palm Springs performance was Sunday; the Regency is next week; this weekend, local audiences can catch them at Peekskill’s Paramount.
“We thought it would be great to have a chance to do it out of town and have a real audience and see what it felt like,” Hyde Pierce says, “so that’s where Peekskill came up.”
As neighbors, they’d been to the same parties — many of them at Feinstein’s home — but they’d never performed together.
“At Michael’s parties, everyone ends up at the piano and starts playing because it’s Stephen Sondheim and Marilyn and Alan Bergman,” Hyde Pierce says. “At his wedding, Barry Manilow and Liza Minnelli performed, so that’s the area that he travels in. It’s a new gig for me.”
Feinstein’s plate is over full this year: He has just released an album, “The Power of Two,” with Cheyenne Jackson; he’s readying a Broadway-bound show, “All About Me,” with Dame Edna; he’s adapting “The Thomas Crown Affair” into a Broadway musical; he’s preparing a 2010 PBS series, “Michael Feinstein: Man on a Mission,” about the American Songbook; he’s writing the score for a big-screen version of “The Big Valley”; he’s designing a new piano for Steinway, inspired by the White House piano; and he’s working on a movie about George Gershwin’s life during the making of “Porgy and Bess.”
Oh, and next year, he’ll become director of the Popular Song Series at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
“In your life, you cast out a lot of lines and you’re happy if one comes back,” Feinstein says. “A lot of them have been coming back lately.”
And there’s December in New York, singing with that neighbor of his.
“People say to me, ‘David Hyde Pierce sings?’ and I say, ‘Well, yes. He was in “Spamalot” and “Curtains.” You might have seen him in those obscure musicals.’
“He takes it very seriously, too,” Feinstein adds. “He takes voice lessons and has a voice teacher. He actually is more serious about it than I am. He actually studies; I never did.”
Like the longer sets in Manhattan, the hourlong concert in Peekskill will be a mix of duets and solos, with both performers taking their turn at the piano. Hyde Pierce is a classically trained pianist who switched to acting while at Yale.
The actor says Feinstein’s working knowledge of the American Songbook “is not academic, it’s endless, it’s encyclopedic. But it all goes to serve the music.”
Knowing the back story to songs, and all of their versions, is a Feinstein strength, his co-star says.
“This is charity benefit season and I performed ‘September Song’ and Michael said, ‘You know, there are lots of different lyrics for that.’ And, of course, he had them all. And there are little, subtle, interesting differences — even in the Walter Huston recordings back in the ’30s — that are really kind of surprising and wonderful. And it’s worth its weight in gold, knowing that stuff.”
While the show is called a holiday concert, it won’t have a lot of holiday songs, Hyde Pierce says.
“It will be a very festive mood and I’m sure we’ll have one or two traditional songs for the holidays, but that’s not the focus. It’s more of a celebration of American song.”
Hyde Pierce hasn’t been to Peekskill, but he quips that playing the 1,000-seat Paramount “should be perfect preparation for playing Feinstein’s, which seats seven.”
Actually, Feinstein points out, his club seats about 150.
“The only downside to working with Michael is that there’s nothing you can surprise him with,” Hyde Pierce says. “He knows everything that’s been written, and every version. So you just have to submit to that, but that’s OK.”
Still, Hyde Pierce says the pairing of the two — a Jewish kid who knows all of Tin Pan Alley and a classically trained WASP from Saratoga Springs — might make for some surprises.
“I downloaded Allan Sherman’s album ‘My Son the Folk Singer’ the other day, thinking it might be something to do with Michael, to play up the Jewish-WASP aspect,” he says. “These are records, like ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,’ that my family had when I was growing up and I haven’t heard them since the early ’60s. But just putting them on gave me such joy to hear them, beyond proportion to how good they were — and they were very good.”
“David is spontaneously very funny,” Feinstein says, “and he makes me seem funny by osmosis. He’s this WASP kid who was raised with Allan Sherman records, so we actually share a similar musical sensibility.”
It goes back to their muddahs and fadduhs.
Michael Feinstein & David Hyde Pierce. Paramount Center for the Arts, 1008 Brown St., Peekskill. 8 p.m. Saturday. $35 to $55. 914-739-2333. www.paramountcenter.org.
If you miss the duo in Peekskill, they’ll be at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, 540 Park Ave. in Manhattan, from Dec. 1 through Dec. 30. Tuesdays through Saturdays. See their performance schedule at feinsteinsattheregency.com. 212-339-4095.