Stage and screen veteran Andrea Marcovicci, who was a mainstay at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room for 25 years, will celebrate her 70th birthday with two farewell New York solo concerts November 17 at Feinstein's/54 Below.
After creating over 40 shows exploring the Great American Songbook, the cabaret favorite's final Manhattan solo outing is entitled Crossing Time; show times are 7 PM and 9:30 PM. Feinstein’s/54 Below will live stream selections from the concert on their Facebook page. Visit 54Below.com for more information. Those attending will receive a limited edition CD single of the song “Crossing Time.”
I have long been an admirer of Marcovicci's many talents, and I thought I would share six reasons why I believe she enjoyed success at the now-closed Oak Room (and at venues around the world) for decades.
1. Written in the Stars
The strikingly beautiful Marcovicci, with her emotion-filled voice, a keen intelligence, a love of the past, and a mother who had been a torch singer (“Her idea of a lullaby was ’Stormy Weather,’” Marcovicci often jokes), seemed destined to croon love songs atop a piano or position herself at the edge of the stage and belt out torchy classics like George and Ira Gershwin's “The Man I Love.” How could anyone resist her?
2. The Story Show
Although many cabaret and nightclub performers had offered shows celebrating a particular composer or their own life's work, Marcovicci may have been the first to create evenings that told a single story through an evening of song. I'm particularly partial to her Sea Story, which was the first act I saw the New York native perform—a late-night show at the Algonquin in the late ’80s. She so convinced you that a sailor and his true love had been separated for years that when she concluded with the folk ballad “John Riley,” the reunion of that couple was thoroughly moving. Marcovicci employed a similar storyline for her most acclaimed act, I'll Be Seeing You: The Love Songs of World War II, utilizing songs from the era to detail the journey of both the soldier and the woman he left behind. It, too, had a happy ending, but here are two songs as the couple face a wartime separation.
3. The Chatty Chanteuse
There may be no one more skilled at in-between song patter than Marcovicci, who was once lovingly dubbed “the chatty chanteuse” by a cabaret critic. Some artists tend to share too much, others too little, but Marcovicci never fails to strike the right balance; in fact, her commentary is always insightful or comedic—and often both. Perhaps “the witty chanteuse” is a better moniker, as you always leave her shows knowing more about the songs and the era than when you arrived. (Songs and chatter with Marcovicci begin below at the 3:45 minute mark.)
4. Old and New
Marcovicci specializes in standards—you'd be hard-pressed to find better versions of “These Foolish Things” or “Two for the Road”—and I think that may be because the songs are not “old” to her. She sees no difference in a song written 100 years ago or one penned yesterday. Each is expressed with the same open-hearted simplicity: Marcovicci’s interpretations are without excess and emotionally spot-on. That is why she can just as easily beguile with “As Time Goes By” as she can with Pink's “Glitter in the Air.” She even devoted one of her recordings to New Words, highlights of which include Christine Lavin's “The Kind of Love You Never Recover From,” Craig Carnelia's “Just Where They Should Be,” Julie Gold's “Goodnight New York,” and the title tune, from Tony winner Maury Yeston.
5. She Makes You Want to Sing
I tend to find that I can separate the great interpreters from the good if I leave a concert and hunt down the sheet music for at least one of the evening's songs. I probably have a box of music thanks to Marcovicci’s performances. I also have a very vivid memory of the singing actor opening one of her programs at the Algonquin with the Irving Berlin classic “They Say It's Wonderful.” Of course, I had heard the song numerous times over the years, but there was something about her phrasing that made it so fresh and new that I went out the next day to the now-closed Colony Records and bought the sheet music.… Alas, I never was able to find the music for Marshall Barer's “Beyond Compare.”
6. Everyone's Welcome
I've spent a lot of time over the past two years thinking about life, happiness, and how we all treat each other. To me, it seems life is about being “welcome.” When you're a child, happiness can be as simple as being welcome to play with another child's new toy. As you reach maturity, it may become… Are you welcome in my bed? As an adult: Are you welcome in my neighborhood, in my home, in my country? Perhaps it's the wide smile, the innate warmth, or her good-heartedness, but Marcovicci has a knack for making all feel, as they should, equally welcome—even onstage. I'll never forget her remarkably entertaining and moving evening of Street Songs at Symphony Space, which followed weeks of her scouring the city for street performers (vocalists, instrumentalists, and even a spoon player), who joined her onstage at the famed venue for solos and duets. She also often welcomed her mother, the late Helen Marcovicci, whose own booming voice impressed well into her ’90s (check out the video below). Thanks, Andrea, for decades of spreading joy and making us all feel so welcome.
Watch vintage clips of Andrea Marcovicci here: