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Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook: Season Three

Airs Fridays, June 14-28, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and Michael Feinstein talk shop about favorite songwriters in MICHAEL FEINSTEIN'S AMERICAN SONGBOOK ‟Show Tunes.”

Michael Feinstein, America’s most passionate music preservationist, returns to PBS in a star-studded, third series of his celebration of the Great American Songbook. In this new three-part season, he explores the enduring popularity of show tunes, the pas de deux between music and choreography, and the indelible impact that radio in its heyday had on the American musical canon.

Courtesy of Jerry Herman

Angela Lansbury in her Tony-award winning performance in the 1966 musical ‟Mame” by Jerry Herman.

Courtesy of Hudson West Productions

Angela Lansbury is surprised with a bit of her own Broadway history in ‟Show Tunes”, when Michael Feinstein reveals film footage of her tour-de-force performance in ‟Gypsy.”

Courtesy of Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli, age 13, rehearses with Gene Kelly for an appearance on Kelly’s first television special in 1959.

Courtesy of Hudson West Productions

Michael Feinstein talks with Liza Minnelli - who started her career as a dancer - about the intersection between music and movement in ‟Let’s Dance.”

Courtesy of Hudson West Productions

Violin superstar Joshua Bell is Michael Feinstein’s guest in ‟On the Air”, when we go behind the scenes of Michael’s radio program ‟Song Travels.”

Episode One "Show Tunes" airs Friday, June 14, 2013 at 9 p.m. - Stars in the Broadway universe don’t shine much brighter than Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury and Christine Ebersole, all of whom appear in this episode about great American musicals. 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.”

Episode Two "Let's Dance" airs Friday, June 21, 2013 at 9 p.m. - Fred Astaire is Michael Feinstein’s favorite singer — but he also was the favorite singer of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin. 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. Liza 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.”

Episode Three "On The Air" airs Friday, June 28, 2013 at 9 p.m. - Today, “American Idol” is the country’s biggest music star-maker, but decades ago, the Golden Age of Radio fulfilled the idol-making role in the U.S. 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.

Michael Feinstein is on Facebook, and you can follow @MichaelFeinstei on Twitter.

Show Tunes - Preview

Hear Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury and Christine Ebersole talk about American musicals. 4/5/2013

Let's Dance - Preview

Explore the marriage of music and choreography with Feinstein and Liza Minnelli. 4/5/2013

Michael Feinsteins American Songbook: On the Air Preview

Join performer Michael Feinstein on his continuing trip through American musical history.