I've been a big fan of Andrea Marcovicci for the past ten years or so, a woman who has helped redefine the limits of cabaret, championing the works of both old and new composers. Marcovicci is currently performing at the Algonquin hotel through the end of the year, but earlier in the week she was part of an evening entitled I Am Anne Frank.
The evening, which honored the memory of Anne Frank, was divided into two segments: the presentation of the 1996 Spirit of Anne Frank Awards and the New York premiere of a work entitled I Am Anne Frank, featuring Marcovicci as the special guest soloist. Susan Strasberg, who portrayed Anne Frank in the Broadway play based on Frank's life (The Diary of Anne Frank, 1955), began the evening with a few remarks and then introduced the Ambassador of the Netherlands, Adriaan Jacobovitz de Szeged, who spoke about Anne and the first time he visited the now-legendary home in Amsterdam where Anne and her family hid. More remarks followed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and then the first annual Spirit of Anne Frank Awards were presented to three young adults, one teacher, one community leader and one business leader who "exemplify the commitment to the ideals and courage that Anne Frank symbolized."
The backgrounds of two recipients, Almin Hodzic and Juan Andino, struck me most. A Bosnian refugee, Hodzic survived a brutal expulsion from his home to face a firing squad and other death threats. He was later incarcerated in a concentration camp and was a refugee for many months. Three local churches sponsored his family, and they were relocated in Greenwich, CT. Now a Dartmouth College freshman, Hodzic has coordinated many humanitarian aid drives to benefit all those in need in Bosnia (Muslims, Croats and Serbs). Hodzic's dedication to ending prejudice has touched the entire Greenwich community. He explains: "I know how it feels to lose your freedom."
Juan Andino, a school aide at P.S. 32, has dedicated his life to helping unwanted children. In fact, in the past 20 years Andino has provided a home for more than 40 kids. It was more than 20 years ago that he was walking home from work when he spotted a young boy sitting in the sidewalk. The child had just been kicked out of his home, and Juan took him in. As his coworkers explain: "Juan doesn't talk about all the good he does. He just does it." After the awards presentation, the second half of the evening began when three childhood friends of Anne Frank Hannah Pick-Goslar "Lies," Jacqueline van Maarsen-Sanders "Jopie," and Eva Schloss discussed their memories of her. Although some of their memories differed, they pointed out that what matters most is that "we remember."
Following their bittersweet memories came I Am Anne Frank, the song cycle by Michael Cohen (composer) and Enid Futterman (lyricist and writer), which was arranged and conducted by Marcovicci's longtime musical director Glen Mehrbach. After the members of the American Symphony Orchestra and Mehrbach were seated, Marcovicci made her entrance dressed is a long black gown that featured white birds decorating the bottom half. I thought it was an interesting choice for the evening--the birds seemed in flight, possessing a freedom that was unknown to Anne Frank and her family.
The song cycle followed Anne's thoughts from the time she was 13 years old until she was incarcerated in the prison camp. A mixture of spoken words and song, Marcovicci gave a wonderfully concentrated and emotional performance as Frank, imbuing the songs with subtle shadings and vocal dynamism. The performance also included a duet with Love! Valour! Compassion!'s Stephen Bogardus, who portrayed Anne's love interest Peter. Their duet, entitled "I am Not a Jew" was one of the most stirring parts of the evening, as Peter and Anne confronted their opposing identities as Jews.
The song cycle was composed of the following parts:
"Dear Kitty, I am thirteen years old..."
"Dear Kitty, I suppose you would like to hear..."
July 11, 1942
The First Chanukah Night
December 7, 1942
"Dear Kitty, In the night, in the dark..."
June 13, 1994
"Dear Kitty, I am longing...."
October 3, 1942 and April 2, 1943
June 15, 1944
I Think Myself Out
April 11, 1944
November 7, 1942 and March 18/24, 1944
I Am Anne Frank
I'm Not a Jew
About her portrayal, Marcovicci had earlier told The New York Times, "It's as if an older Anne is looking back on her life, as if she still exists now."
Currently Marcovicci can be found on the small stage of the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel through Jan. 4, 1997. Her first program, which runs through December 7 is entitled "Ten Cents a Dance: A Tribute to Ruth Etting." Marcovicci had this to say about Etting:
"Ruth Etting was one of the most beloved stars of the twenties and thirties and yet, is largely forgotten today. Other than the movie, Love Me or Leave Me, starring Doris Day, very little is known about this great singer who introduced "Ten Cents a Dance," "Shakin' the Blues Away," "Mean to Me" and so many other songs of The Great Depression. I've been fascinated by her sound, her honesty, and her repertoire ever since I started collecting her records 15 years ago, and in putting together this tribute, I've discovered intriguing details about her life, her loves, and why this sensational performer quit at the height of her popularity."
Marcovicci's second show, entitled "By Request Part II," which begins December 10 and finishes January 4, is a collection of songs her fans have come to know and love, including "These Foolish Things," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Secret of Life," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Danny Boy."
The Oak Room cabaret schedule is as follows: Tuesday through Thursday at 9 PM and Friday and Saturday at 9 and 11:30 PM. Call 212-840-6800 more information.
That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
By Andrew Gans
(My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)