I got to see Andrea Marcovicci’s amazing Johnny Mercer show at the Algonquin on Christmas Eve. The people to my right are Shelly Markham, Kate Loitz, Francesca Amari, Andrea Marcovicci, and Louisa Poster. (Ron’s missing because he’s the one who took the photo.)
OK, Francesca, why didn’t you let us know you had this great newish YouTube video? This video is especially special to me since this is the first song I heard Francesca sing, on the into night at Perry-Mansfield.
Thanks to Francesca Amari (who just shared a bill with Andrea Marcovicc and Karen Mason at a concert at the Metropolitan Room) for forwarding this interview with Marcovicci about her upcoming Johnny Mercer show in Savannah:
“What surprised you most about Mercer that you only learned through crafting this show?”“Andrea Marcovicci: Oh, many, many, many, many many things! I was completely unaware Johnny was such a major recording artist and singer in his own right. That helped me understand how he so brilliantly set words along musical lines. I was unaware that he always, always worked to music first. So, he might have an idea for a song, but he’d go and find a guy to write a melody for him. So, he was setting his lyrics to someone else’s melody. Being a singer, he places vowels and consonants in a way that makes them ever so singable. I was really unaware of his singing, and that came as a delicious surprise to me.
Then learning each song again. You see, I already knew a lot of Mercer, but I had never approached it from that point of view. I was amazed at the compliments this past weekend on my voice. I said it’s just the way he placed his vowels. So, I am most grateful to Johnny for knowing how to do that. Because he was a singer, he knew just how to write for them. Oh, and the depth and the breadth of the different styles he worked in! He did so many translations, and did many more Broadway shows than I thought. You don’t think of him as a Broadway writer at all, and yet there were six Broadway shows to his name and a seventh on the way.”
Francesca Amari is one of those fabulous performers and fabulous people about whom I can claim absolutely no objectivity. (She’s a cohort I was fortunate to meet during my time at Perry-Mansfield as well as a friend-of-this-blog — you can read her Divas 5+1 interview by clicking the section at the right. )
Her debut solo CD features a stunningly wonderful version of the Brian Lasser song, Better Days. And the moods on the CD run from contemplative, to sassy, to heartbreaking, to exhilerating, all overlaid with her abundant personal charm.
Various Perry-Mansfield alumnae have been busy…
Francesca Amari plays the next two Mondays at the Metropolitan Room in New York the next two Mondays. I saw the show last November and it’s terrific! Plus it was expertly directed by Barry Kleinbort and features the amazing Christopher Denny as music director.
Hilary Feldman’s CD, Taking Flight, has been out for a couple of months now, but it’s still worth noting as a lovely recording.
And that Bistro-Award-winning Kate Loitz has just made her (non-singing) YouTube debut as a crafty blind woman!
Apologies to anyone logging in over the weekend and not getting an update. I was on the road, reports follow.
It was great to see Francesca Amari’s show at the Metropolitan Room. In the interest of full disclosure, Francesca and I were at “cabaret camp” at Perry-Mansfield together, so I was really rooting for her. And she didn’t disappoint! Francesca’s show has a theme of “guilty pleasure” songs. Francesca has a delightfully fizzy stage persona, and terrific vocal chops. The show itself was directed by the great Barry Kleinbort and music directed by Chris Denney (now also “beat boxing”), so it was musically and structurally seamless.
One of the best things that Francesca demonstrated in this show is that anything can be “cabaret” material –it’s an approach and commitment that can make any material work. And the showed stayed in the cabaret and didn’t ever slip into the “lounge.” And the biggest compliment in doing this material – the performance and the arrangements were so compelling that nobody thought of singing along to the very familiar material because they were so interested in what Francesca would do with it. The songs she was singing may have been chestnuts, but Francesca made them into marrons glaces!
It was great to see the support of the Perry-Mansfield crowd at the show for Francesca – the great Andrea Marcovicci and Shelly Markham were at the show (before having to do two shows of their own that night), and the wonderful David Gaines and Brandon Cutrell were also there.Here’s her set list:
I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE (Cahn/Styne) / ONE OF THOSE SONGS (Holt (Eng. Lyric)/Calvi)
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL (Edwards/Raliegh)
CHANCES ARE (Allen/Stillman)
LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER (Sedaka/Greenfield)
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO (Sedaka/Greenfield)
FAME (Pitchford/Gore) / OUT HERE ON MY OWN (Gore/Gore)
- THAT’S AMORE (Brooks/Warren) / VOLARE (Migliacci/Modugno)
WHERE THE BOYS ARE (Sedaka/Greenfield)
KING OF THE ROAD (Miller)
I HONESTLY LOVE YOU (Allen/Barry)
- RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS (Williams/Nichols) / RAINDROPS KEEP FALLIN’ (David/Bacharach) / I GO TO RIO (Allen/Anderson) / BLAME IT ON THE BOSSA NOVA (Mann/Weil) / COPACABANA (Sussman & Feldman/Manilow)
A SONG FOR YOU (Russell)
I BEEPED WHEN I SHOULD HAVE BOPPED (Wayne/Brenner)
Encore: SING (Raposo)
Francesca Amari is a huge Midwest-based talent. Not only does she do her own act, she also tours with a group called Boogie Woogie Babies. She is currently making her New York debut at the Metropolitan Room with her act, The Square Show: Songs You (Hate to) Love, music directed by Chris Denny and directed by Barry Kleinbort. Stu Hamstra wrote “She sparkled and shone at the Birthday show, and she repeated those same qualities in her show last night.”
One more chance to see the show this Saturday at 5:00pm!
1. Please describe a “perfect” cabaret experience that you’ve had.
Well, I haven’t taken my ADD medicine today so I may skip around a bit! My cabaret experiences keep getting better and better…with the more I perform and the more training I get. I’d have to say my most recent experience, collaborating with Director Barry Kleinbort and Music Director, Chris Denny on my new show, was a HUGE delight!!! I finally got it – how creative people can come together and really create “new” interpretations and “new” arrangements from existing songs – so that I, the singer, can really make them my own. It was a lovely experience and I owe Chris and Barry a debt of gratitude. Also, whenever I can completely lose myself in the story of a song, feels like a moment of perfection. It doesn’t happen every single time, but when it happens, it’s magic. And finally, meeting my idol, Miss Andrea Marcovicci, several years ago, and in fact, continuing to have a relationship with her, is PERFECTION.
2. What is a recent song you’ve been struggling with? Have you won yet?
Well, I think this is one of your pet peeve songs, Michael…but I have been singing “Stars and Moon” lately…(it’s not done so much in Michigan, where I live!) And I constantly struggle with the words…and then when I’m nervous, (the audience never really can tell) but sometimes I lose my words, which makes it tough when you’re already struggling for words! Well, the last time I sang the song, a few weeks ago, I was having a particularly emotional day, anyway, so singing that song took a huge effort for me to try and focus on it. And I think, for the first time, I actually inhabited the song and made it a song for me…because I am old enough to sing it now and really understand it…and have lived it. So, while it seemed a bit self-indulgent…I sang for me…. rather than the audience. And I actually did lose a word or two, but it didn’t matter, because the audience got it. Every nuance, every moment…they got it and loved it. There was silence at the end of the song. Just silence. And then huge applause…it was a lovely moment.
3. The relationship between a singer and the musical director really is a “cabaret marriage.” What are the keys to making the marriage work? And for the times you need to work with a surrogate, what are the steps you take to get quickly on the same page?
I’ve worked with numerous accompanists over the last few years…because I”m in an area of the country that doesn’t really have cabaret clubs (I create my own cabaret opportunities), the musicians I work with don’t necessarily function like they do in NYC, as music directors. What I’ve learned to make the “marriage” work is that you HAVE to really listen and hear what the music director is saying about the tempo and rhythms and feel of a song….so that you can figure out, together, how the music will flow…he/she has to feel as comfortable playing a song as you do singing it…so it needs to make sense for him/her, musically, as well. And giving yourselves plenty of time to put a show together…it can’t all be spent working on songs at the piano – you have to spend “talk time” to share ideas, think of songs, share feelings about the theme of your show. The sharing of ideas is often where the magic happens. Also, I’ve learned, when working with a surrogate…to go in KNOWING exactly what I want and using the proper musical terms to describe what I want (I spend a lot of time with music dictionaries!!). If I can talk and communicate musically, half my battle is won. I think flexibility is key.
4. What is a particular image that you can rely on to be an effective sense memory when you’re performing?
Well, I walk my dog on a daily basis, and I’ve gotten in the habit – a lovely habit – of NOT SINGING A SONG to really learn it – but reciting it as a monologue as I’m walking. It’s made a huge difference in how I phrase and how I interpret songs. I also try to associate different songs I’m singing with people or experiences in my life /from my past that can help put me in the right frame of mind for a particular song. And it never fails for me to think about my father, who died 4 years ago…he’s a huge source of emotions for me.
5. What is the most pressing need the world of cabaret has today?
Building an audience!! I find when people actually attend their first cabaret show – they become hooked! So many people don’t understand what cabaret is or can be…until they come to a show and experience such an intimate, personal evening and enjoy it so much. So educating and building audiences for cabaret is crucial!
+1 Now having experience on the New York scene, what do people in NY least understand about the cabaret scene in places like the Midwest?
Perhaps that it even exists! And it doesn’t, really, in Grand Rapids, where I live – there are no cabaret clubs. I try to do some work in Chicago, and now a club or two has opened in Detroit; but mostly, I do cabaret shows in non-cabaret venues…(corporate and convention events, private concerts, small theatre spaces, etc.)…and it still works…people still want to have that intimate musical experience and value cabaret, once they are educated about what it is you’re doing!! I think there are people all over the country, like me, who have a passion, awareness, experience and the training to be doing cabaret, even though we’re not in cabaret hotbeds!! We’re EVERYWHERE!!!