ON THE RECORD: Melissa Errico–Finally–In One Touch of Venus

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01 Jun 2014

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How do you become an overnight sensation in a show that runs only three days? Melissa Errico did just that when she stepped onto the City Center stage–in the third season of the still-developing Encores! series–in Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus. Playbill.com reviews the long awaited Jay Records studio recording that captures Errico's performance. 

Errico made her Broadway debut as a bright 22-year-old from Long Island, as just about the only bright spot in the stultifying 1992 musical Anna Karenina. This quick flop was followed by a big Broadway chance–as Eliza Doolittle opposite Richard Chamberlin's 'enry 'iggins–in the most misguided production of My Fair Lady ever to come our way. Errico resurfaced the following season in the 1995 Encores! production of Call Me Madam, proving to be altogether delightful as the Princess Maria (opposite the equally charming Lewis Cleale). When Encores! went to cast the Mary Martin role in their 1996 production of One Touch of Venus, they eschewed casting an existing star in favor of the little-known Errico. Her performance was gossamer-like magic. Ben Brantley in the Times called her "divine" and "floating with the stars," and asked "where has Melissa Errico been all our lives?"

Mr. Brantley was hardly alone in his praise. The critical salvo put Errico on the brink of a glorious career as Broadway's next leading lady. Things didn't quite work out, though; her first big vehicle, playing the Katharine Hepburn role in the 1998 Cole Porter-derived High Society, had all the sizzle of a powder-dampened firecracker. Her next two musicals were poor (Amour, 2002) and poorer (Dracula, 2004). Which has left Errico–poised to conquer musical comedy on the heels of Venus–without any success on Broadway. She most recently appeared as Clara in the 2013 Classic Stage Company production of Passion, and that didn't work out too well either (with Errico forced to leave the show due to vocal indisposition).

But in Venus, in 1996, she was–yes–altogether magical. The Encores! production was not recorded, but the U.K.-based Jay Records arranged to make their own studio recording of the score. This turned out to be a long and tortured undertaking, apparently due to problems of financing. Three recording sessions were held in 2000, and then–nothing. Fans of Errico–those who saw Venus at City Center, and those who wished they had–waited impatiently as the years turned into a decade. Back they went into the studio in 2012, finally, and the recording has now been released. And yes, One Touch of Venus–after all this time–does not disappoint.

(The asterisked notes in the accompanying booklet suggest that Errico's five main songs were recorded in 2000, with conductor John Owen Edwards. A good half of the score seems to have been recorded over the last two years, with conductor James Holmes.)



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