Andrea Marcovicci is trying to kick the habit. Smoking. It’s something she picked up this past fall while starring in Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s Lady in the Dark at the new Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia. “It was so ‘period’ to smoke,” Marcovicci says, describing the part originated by Gertrude Lawrence as one of her dream roles, “I just had to.” Of course, if you know Andrea, then you know the truest way to capture the essence of Weill (or Gershwin, for that matter) one must embrace the materials’ history. “In Gertrude’s notes in the original script,” she explains, “the only stage directions written down were when she lit up and when she stubbed out. Gertrude was all about being a smoker.”
Andrea, of course, is not. When the acclaimed cabaret star accepted the role, “I had to tell my six-year-old daughter: ‘You need to know a few things when you see me in the show. First, I kiss other men. And, second, I smoke.’”
Bypassing the romantic stuff, the little girl raised the tobacco flag, ‘Oh, no, Mommy! You’ll become addicted!’ “Of course, she was right,”
Marcovicci sighs. “I became a smoker. And when I first quit,” the singer says, recalling the variety of raw sensations she encountered, “it was like my skin was so thin I could feel emotions right to the bone.”
The experience is familiar — to Andrea’s cabaret fans, that is. And for those New Yorkers addicted to the diva’s masterly musical mood swings, “fixes” are currently being administered at the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel. Through Jan. 17, this dramatically-astute interpreter wraps her uniquely soulful soprano around nearly 20-some songs associated with that revered lady in the dark, as Marcovicci brings Lawrence back into the spotlight and rekindles the legacy of the late, great musical theatre star of yesteryear in "One Life to Live: A Celebration of Gertrude Lawrence."
The kinship with Lawrence travels much further back, however, than Marcovicci’s recent gig in Philly. “Because my mother was a singer,” she says, “there was always music around the house. And I can remember as a little girl seeing a picture of Gertrude on the cover of a piece of sheet music for ‘My Ship.’” Along with that song and the title number from the show, Marcovicci’s loving tribute also includes Lady’s tour de force, “The Saga of Jenny”. For levity, there’s “Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I, as well as the popular hits “Body & Soul” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” “Like with composers I’ve focused on,” Marcovicci says, “it’s the same with Gertrude: It’s about taking out their diamond and shining them.” And because Lawrence’s career never really transferred to the screen, as Marcovicci notes, “she’s of that ephemeral nature of the theatre. And though it is bittersweet sometimes,” Marcovicci pauses, filling the air with a sudden thought of solidarity, “I too am part of the ephemera.”