"Michael Feinstein's American Songbook" Returns to PBS With Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury, Christine Ebersole, Liza Minnelli

By Adam Hetrick
April 5, 2013

Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury, Christine Ebersole and Liza Minnelli join Michael Feinstein for the third season of "Michael Feinstein's American Songbook," which debuts April 5 on PBS stations nationwide.



The three-episode series premieres with "Show Tunes" April 5 at 9 PM. Sondheim, Lansbury and Ebersole are featured in the episode about great American musicals.

According to PBS, "Sondheim reveals the composers he most admires and shows Feinstein some rare home movie footage of the original Broadway production of the classic Follies. Tony Award-winner Ebersole gives a tour de force performance of some of the greatest show tunes of all time, and Lansbury reflects on her Broadway career, from Mame to Sweeney Todd and Gypsy. (Feinstein has a surprise for Angela.) Feinstein discusses his personal relationship with Ira Gershwin (also the topic of his recent book) and performs the classic 'Lullaby of Broadway,' 'Let Me Entertain You' and 'No One Is Alone.'"

Later in the evening, at 10 PM PBS airs "Let's Dance," celebrating Fred Astaire, who was beloved by such writers as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin. Minnelli will join Feinstein for the episode. 

PBS asks, "Why was this dancer, first-and-foremost, so beloved by America’s great composers? With that question, Feinstein launches into an exploration of the marriage between music and choreography, unearthing rare home movies of Astaire rehearsing on set, and remarkable memorabilia from that other screen-dance icon, Gene Kelly. Kelly stuns in never-before-seen footage of his Broadway debut in the original Pal Joey, as does the iconic Cyd Charisse, seen in her first television performance. Minnelli, who knew Kelly and Astaire, discusses their unique styles and techniques. She also is seen in vintage television clips dancing with Kelly and performing some memorably steamy choreography. Feinstein indulges his inner Astaire with private dance lessons, learning differences between the fox trot and the turkey trot, among others. Finally he explores the endless popularity of ballroom dance and performs the classics 'Change Partners,' 'Singin' in the Rain,' 'Shall We Dance' and 'Let's Face the Music and Dance.'"

"On the Air," celebrating the golden age of radio, will be broadcast April 12 at 10 PM.

According to PBS, "Feinstein traces the phenomenon with archival clips of Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, Kate Smith and many others. He visits with TV and stage star Rose Marie (best known as Sally Rogers on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show') and learns about her career as a highly paid child radio star named 'Baby' Rose Marie. On his own syndicated public radio program, Feinstein showcases the virtuoso talents of classical superstars, including violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk, who perform together and discuss intersections of classical and popular music. This episode includes visits to collectors of vintage radios and radio programs. Finally, he discovers a lost radio program that featured Rosemary Clooney, and recalls his own memorable duet with her."

Check local PBS listings. The series is also available for purchase on DVD at PBS.org. The DVD packaging includes over 90 minutes of bonus material.