Andrea Marcovicci Sings Johnny Mercer

December 26, 2009

Seeing Andrea Marcovicci’s tribute to Johnny Mercer at the Oak Room of the Algonquin, there was so much to appreciate about the show on so many levels.  I found the experience dizzying as well as intoxicating.

First of all, there is Marcovicci as researcher and communicator.  For the show, not only has she done her usual meticulous research on the subject of Johnny Mercer, she communicates it in a way that makes her audience feel terrifically smarter at the end of the evening.  Moreover, she shares the insights she has gleaned while working on the material in a way that provides a greater depth of understanding about Mercer’s work.

On another level, it’s fascinating to see the way Marcovicci structures an evening to provide her audience with an emotionally fulfilling experience.  See her luring the audience at the beginning with familiar, charm material.  Then watch her define the evening, and then provide a series of emotional arcs, working toward a crescendo at the end.  Note the way she slips in less-familiar material.  Similarly, it was fascinating to see how she skillfully re-purposed material from her Astaire and Marcovicci Sings Movies shows as chunks in this show.

And then, there is Marcovicci the musical interpreter.  She always has a strong point of view about her material, is totally on top of the story she is telling, and completely commits to the dramatic moment. 

An example of the way this all came together came after Marcovicci’s discussion of Johnny Mercer’s courtship of his wife Ginger.  After discussing the fact that Ginger was New York-based while Johnny was developing a Hollywood career, she then launched into a his-and-her version of P.S. I Love You and I Thought About You.  Wowie.

(Oh, and, of course, visually she is a cabaret dream.)

 And all of this is supported by the superb musicianship of her music director Shelly Markham.  Not only does Markham provide arrangements that superbly support Marcovicci’s choices and interpretations, as a pianist he is magnificently in sync with Marcovicci.  Jared Egan’s bass added a special dimension to the evening. And as a special Christmas Eve treat, at the encore Helen Marcovicci made a special guest appearance, singing the Mercer Come Rain or Come Shine and joining her daughter for It Was a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening.

  • Skylark
  • Something’s Gotta Give
  • Spring, Spring, Spring
  • I’m Old Fashioned / You Were Never Lovelier
  • Out of Breath …
  • You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby / Too Marvelous for Words
  • P.S. I Love You / I Thought About You
  • That Old Black Magic
  • Accentuate the Positive
  • My Sugar is So Refined
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Whistling Away the Dark
  • Moon River / Charade
  • One for My Baby… / I Wanna Be Around / Goody, Goody
  • Dream

Encores

  • Come Rain or Come Shine (Helen Marcovicci)
  • It Was a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (Andrea & Helen Marcovicci)

Andrea Marcovicci on Christmas Eve

December 26, 2009

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.)


The Best of Andrea Marcovicci

May 27, 2009

ANDREA MARCOVICCI: As Time Goes By: The Best of Andrea MarcovicciAndrea Marcovicci has released a “greatest hits” CD, As Time Goes By: The Best of Andrea Marcovicci, featuring songs from her many albums that have been released in the last 21 years.  The recording includes tracks from a number of CDs that have gone out of print.

I am happy to report that my three all-time favorite Marcovicci tracks have made their way onto the collection:  On Such a Night As This (the track that really hooked me on her first LP), The Sweetest of Nights (the perfect “occasion” song), and These Foolish Things (three verses of pure bliss).  The CD is also encouraging me to go back and listen to her Berlin and Kern recordings, having forgotten how good the tracks from those were.

And clever cabaret diva that Marcovicci is, she throws two new tracks onto this recording forcing her fans who already have the original CDs to buy the new one.  But her renditions of The Lies of Handsome Men and Young at Heart (not to mention the amazing Shelly Markham arrangements) are well worth the price of admission.

At this point in the review it is de rigeur for a critic to show how well he knows an artist repertoire by bemoaning cuts left off the CD.  I won’t disappoint.  I really miss her amazing version of Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneeden’s, the fabulously late-night One For My Baby, the intense negotiation in The Kind of Love You Never Recover From, and and the gossamer flight of It Happens Very Softly (from her shuttered-on-the-road starring role in Nefertiti).

Marcovicci recently had a triumphant 60th birthday concert at Town Hall — here’s a write-up.

1 As Time Goes By
2 On Such a Night as This
3 Two For the Road
4 The Folks Who Live on the Hill
5 After You, Who?
6 These Foolish Things
7 You Were Never Lovelier/The Way You Look Tonight
8 The Touch of Your Hand/Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
9 Say It Isn’t So/What’ll I Do?/Remember/Suppertime
10 Beyond Compare
11 Looking at You
12 What More Can I Say?
13 Say It (Over and Over)/Heart and Soul
14 Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days
15 New Words
16 Lies of Handsome Men
17 Young at Heart

Andrea Marcovicci in Reston

February 1, 2009

It was terrific to see Andrea Marcovicci’s tribute to Fred Astaire at the Reston Community Center yesterday afternoon. 

Having previously seen the show in two smaller venues, it was interesting to see how she adapted the piece to a full-sized theater yet was able to keep a cabaret intimacy.  And of course Shelly Markham proved why he’s at the pinnacle of the cabaret music direction world.

I’ll link to my official Cabaret Scenes review when they post it.

Here’s her song list:

Night And Day / Something’s Gotta Give
A Foggy Day-Isn’t This A Lovely Day (To Be Caught In The Rain)?
This Heart Of Mine
Let’s Kiss And Make Up
The Carioca / The Continental / The Piccolino
A Needle In A Haystack / I’ve GOt My Eyes On You / I Used To Be Color Blind
He Loves And She Loves / ‘S Wonderful
I’m Building Up To An Awful Let-Down
They Can’t Take That Away From Me
One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
Slap That Bass
Let’s Face the Music and Dance
Cheek to Cheek
Top Hat / Steppin’ Out with My Baby
Change Partners
You Were Never Lovelier
The Way You Look Tonight
I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man


Andrea Marcovicci in Reston this Saturday

January 27, 2009

Andrea Sings AstaireThe one, the only, the amazing, the superb Andrea Marcovicci brings her Fred Astaire show to the Reston Community Center this Saturday.  It’s an amazing opportunity to see her without the 3-figure charge of the Algonquin in New York.

Friend-of-this-blog Shelly Markham music directs and Jared Egan (who recently played the Liz Callaway concert at the Kennedy Center) is on bass.


Classics from a classic …

December 13, 2008

Seems Like Old Times..

Before she was known as Andrea Marcovicci’s mother, Helen Marcovicci had a considerable nighclub career appearing at such boites as the Maisonette, The Glass Hat, and La Vie Parisienne under the name Helen Stuart.

On this disc, the singer offers a collection of classic songs beautifully sung and beautifully thought.  It is a particular delight to be re-acquainted with songs such as Seems Like Old Times, I’ma Fool to Want You, and For All We Know.

And the always-wonderful Shelly Markham provides sturdy, nuanced music direction.

1 Smiles
2 My Melancholy Baby
3 Seems Like Old Times
4 It All Depends on You
5 I Don’t Know Why (I Just Do)
6 The Twelfth of Never
7 Autumn Leaves
8 I’m a Fool to Want You
9 Don’t Blame Me
10 In the Still of the Night
11 Russian Lullaby
12 Blue Skies
13 For All We Know

Another Marcovicci Review

November 20, 2008

Thanks to Francesca Amari who forwarded me the following review of Marcovicci Sings Movies II from Backstage: “An actor who knows how to pose while not seeming to be striking any pose other than good, smart humor, Marcovicci might skip Diane Bulgarelli’s title song that she introduced in the forgotten film Someone to Love (and for which she accompanied herself at the piano, temporarily unseating reliable Shelly Markham), but otherwise she’s rising to her usual level and even beyond it.”


Andrea Marcovicci Sings Movies at the Oak Room

November 19, 2008

Ron and I caught Andrea Marcovicci’s late show Saturday night at the Algonquin. 

Marcovicci’s breakthrough act 20+ years ago (as well as her first cabaret LP) was Marcovicci Sings Movies.  In her current show, Marcovicci Sings Movies II,  the cabaret legend explores various aspects of the history of song classics in film.

Okay, since it’s Andrea Marcovicci, and since she’s the most elegant diva around, let’s mention the dress (I mean gown).  It’s a jeweled flesh-tone chiffon sheath with Fortuny-inspired over-draping in a champagne silk charmeuse.*  Marcovicci entered draped in grey shawl, and after doing the “reveal” of the dress commented, “This is what I invested in.”  Late in the show she accessorized the outfit with a fox stole, and I was fascinated that she wound it twice around her right arm to anchor it.  In addition to the requisite necklace, bracelets, earrings, and rings, she wore a large artificial gardenia on her left wrist that had a star moment during a lyric that said “every day was like a gift of flowers, ribbon-wrapped and waiting to be seen.”  And unlike the last artist I saw in the space, the ensemble was exquisite and fascinating from the back, too.

Marcovicci explored various archetypes in the movies, both performers and themes and how movie music illustrated them, including the perfect gentleman – a Fred Astaire medley of course, the sidekick – Hamlet as introduced by Betty Hutton**, the perfect lady – Audrey Hepburn.  She joked that Hepburn still inspires her to achieve her “original weight, seven and three quarters pounds,” and made the fascinating point that “if you look at the Mancini melodies writen for her movies, they are trim, elegant; they are simple and exquisitely tailored just like the Givenchys she wore; and if you hear them you see her instantly.”  The subsequent medley of Moon River, Charade, and Two for the Road certainly bear out her argument.

Marcovicci mentioned that her first memory ever was of going to the movies with her father (as she puts it, “We didn’t have ‘quality time’ in the Fifities”).  And she wove the theme of the movies bringing out our inner child through the show.  It was especially touching when she discussed her own daughter who suggested the Randy Newman song When She Loved Me for this show.

I first heard the Marcovicci Sings Movies LP being played at Melody Records at Dupont Circle, and I bought it instantly and listened to it endlessly for a period.  So it was a special, very touching thrill to hear Marcovici sing some of those tracks such as Two For The Road and It Might Be You live for the very first time.  Marcovicci also recreated her own movie music moment, accompanying herself while singing Someone to Love, as she did in Henry Jaglom’s film of the same name. (However, she did not flip off the audience at the end.)

On Sunday, I mentioned this to one of Manhattan’s more mordant musical directors in town who responded, “Oh, does she play flat, too?”  And I feel the need to discuss the fact that Marcovicci seems to be one of the most polarizing performers around.  In fact there is even a song in the revue Cabaret Hell with the punchline, “…but I hate Andrea Marcovicci more.”

First of all, the voice.  Yes, it’s distinctive and immediately recognizable.  And it is one of those instruments that can cause an immediate reaction — for better or for worse.  (I fell in love immediately.)  However, I’ve never had occasion to wonder if Marcovicci actually knew what the melody of a song is, the way I have with others of more lauded instruments.   And this is a genre where Mabel Mercer is the icon.  Admittedly, when Marcovicci was going through vocal issues a few years back, she kept performing rather than putting her career on hold.  But I am happy to say she sounds that best that she has in this century!

However, many people have attractive tones.  What Marcovicci singularly does is combine an intense desire to communicate ideas to an audience by providing an emotional experience.  For example, in her current show, she starts a section with a statement taking movies to task for the glamorization of alcohol and smoking.  After several amusing Nick and Nora jokes she turns her attention to the songwriter Johnny Mercer, explaining that he had a notorious addiction to alcohol, and that his charm often turned so sour that he would have to call his hostess the morning after the night before and make floral amends, but often got to the point where he was told, “Don’t bother with the roses, Johnny.” Marcovicci then launched into a medley of Days of Wine and Roses (from a movie devoted to the ravages of alcoholism) and Call Me Irresponsible.  The performance of the medley travelled a journey from a place of pixilated charm to boorish, alcoholic bravado.  Then she wrapped up the sequence with the fact that the two songs were back-to-back Oscar winners.  C’mon, that’s more layers than the Jacques Torres croissant I had that afternoon! 

Of course Marcovicci could accomplish none of this without the steady hand of her music director, the incomparable friend-of-this-blog Shelly Markham.  He totally understands how to support Marcovicci’s musical attacks and manages to make musical transitions that would baffle lesser players seem obvious and seamless.  His arrangements of the songs remaining from Marcovicci Sings Movies V.1 seem somehow warmer than Glen Merbach’s work.  Jared Egan on bass also provided a solid foundation.

Here’s her set list***:

  • Long Ago and Far Away
  • It Might Be You
  • Good Mornin’
  • I Won’t Dance / Cheek to Cheek
  • Swingin’ on a Star
  • Moon River / Charade / Two For the Road
  • Days of Wine and Roses / Call Me Irresponsible
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • Hamlet
  • Someone to Love
  • When She Loved Me
  • The Way We Were / Thanks for the Memories
  • Young At Heart
  • Encore: As Time Goes By

*  See, I learned something from watching all those cycles of Project Runway

** People who’ve heard Marcovicci’s views of putting an act together will recognize her belief in transferring “arcs” as useful from one show to another.  In this, there were items from her Astaire, WWII, and Loesser projects.  The lady preaches what she practices!

*** She said that she had considered the Oscar-winning song, It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp, but didn’t include it because she “didn’t have the wardrobe.”


Mark your calendars — Andrea Marcovicci & Beverly Cosham in Reston

September 16, 2008

The Reston Community Center has posted their season, and tickets are available.

Of special note: the great Andrea Marcovicci brings her terrific Fred Astaire show on Saturday, 31 January.  This show is a perfect example of how to blend a theme with great music and how to combine the intimacy of cabaret with a strong theatrical point of view.  And of course, friend-of-this-blog and amazing interpreter Shelly Markham provides music direction.  Plus, the $30 ticket fee is a great bargain, especially considering the fact that catching Marcovicci in New York’s Oak Room easily runs five times more.  (Yes, that includes dinner and drinks, but still…)

Also, the great Beverly Cosham is scheduled for March 28th.


Gardenia Open Mic

July 26, 2008

It’s a YouTube world!  Several of the performances from the Open Mic I went to at the Gardenia have shown up on YouTube.  Here are Tom Culver singing Let Me Love You and Dolores Scozzesi singing Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most — the incomparable Shelly Markham is at the keyboards.