Nightclub Venue Review: FEINSTEIN’S AT THE NIKKO (Hotel Nikko, San Francisco)

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by Tony Frankel on January 28, 2012

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


[Editor’s Note: In May, 2013, a year after this article was written, this nightclub became Feinstein’s at The Nikko. This article still suits the club as it is now in many ways. The Rrazz Room still has 4 other locations. Updated info for all clubs below.]

It was by sheer luck that the Rrazz Room in San Francisco became known to me. Not long after this intimate spot opened, a friend brought me to the nightclub act of the illustrious Linda Purl. Since then, business partners Robert Kotonly and Rory Paull – who transformed a meeting room in the main lobby of Hotel Nikko into tony digs – have taken their peculiarly-named outfit and reinvigorated the nightclub/cabaret scene into one the likes of which the west coast hasn’t seen in decades.  The boys spent around $1 million – and it shows.

Hotel Nikko’s Rrazz Room in San Francisco – cabaret venue review by Tony Frankel

First, there is a ritzy L-shaped lobby with a bar (which seats 80 and opens at 2pm daily) with views onto Mason Street. A host escorts you down a hallway lined with photos highlighting the impressive array of talent which has already appeared at the club (headliners such as Rita Moreno, Tyne Daly, and Diahann Carroll).

Knowing that the entertainment space seats almost 200, it was surprising to find that the beautiful and lush room is gloriously intimate. It was designed without pillars; as such, there is not a bad sight-line in the house (designer Gregg De Meza also incorporated a slatted wooden ceiling to match the Japanese character of the hotel). Yes, it is very cozy, reminiscent of the New York clubs that gave rise to the cabaret scene, but patrons will not feel as though they are on top of each other. The lighting is perfectly unobtrusive (designed by Broadway veteran Matt Berman) and the sound system is unparalleled (Yamaha is using the space as an industry demonstration room for its sound equipment).

Hotel Nikko’s Rrazz Room in San Francisco – cabaret venue review by Tony Frankel

But here is the kicker for both music and theater fans alike: after just three years of operation, The Rrazz Room is poised to become the preeminent nightclub/cabaret space in the United States, already rivaling such premier spots as Feinstein’s in New York, but with one major difference: the line-up at Rrazz is currently beyond compare. Coming up this year, the sophisticated but unpretentious venue not only hosts Broadway luminaries such as Elaine Stritch, Ben Vereen, and Betty Buckley, but also perennial cabaret favorites Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Akers, and Ann Hampton Calloway. You want legends? How about Jack Jones, Janis Paige, and Shirley Jones?

The stage is only 22 feet wide and 10 feet deep at the center with no wing space. Pop artists such as Jefferson Starship, Ce Ce Peniston, and Martha Reeves will enter through the audience and work on a stage backed by a wall of windows (which may or may not be blocked at your show). Every day of the week, you will have a chance to see topnotch acts, from the famous (Della Reese) to locals who should be household names (Kim Nalley).

Hotel Nikko’s Rrazz Room in San Francisco – cabaret venue review by Tony Frankel

The menu is replete with fancy-schmancy cocktails and a light menu of Asian-accented noshes from Anzu, Nikko’s house restaurant. For those who balk at the two-drink minimum, remember that this is how the Rrazz can stay in business – that’s one big nut they have to cover. If you’re concerned about cash as you watch jazz greats (Dianne Schuur), comedians (Leslie Jordan), and mass-appeal, gay community favorites (Varla Jean Merman), you can order a beer for six bucks.

The ticket prices, as you can imagine, vary greatly, averaging at $20 to $35. Elaine Stritch’s Sondheim show is slightly steeper at $30 to $55, but I paid twice that to see her in a gigantic Broadway house! (Della Reese was the highest price found at $65.) VIP tickets can be bought for close-up seats, but honestly, why pay more for such snug surroundings? (Needless to say, prices and artists will change.) So put on some sweet getups and enjoy this romantic joint with an old-style character that one would expect from a high-class cabaret. The City by the Bay is lucky to have the Rrazz Room.

showroom photos by Pat Johnson

The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko
In May, 2013 The Rrazz Room became Feinstein’s at The Nikko
for shows and tickets, visit Feinstein’s
222 Mason Street in San Francisco
for more information on other Rrazz Room locations, visit Rrazz

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John September 5, 2012 at 4:41 pm

The room looks stunning.

Any plans to book the marvelous Marilyn Maye?


Tony Frankel September 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

You can find Marilyn Maye’s schedule here.


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