Andrea Marcovicci - ravishing at 60
She has been called the greatest cabaret singer of her generation and on May 16th she will celebrate her milestone 60th birthday and the release of her "Best Of" CD at Town Hall, alongside her longtime musical director Shelly Markham, her mother, Helen-a torch singer from the 1940s who will also be celebrating her 90th birthday and her own CD release-and a bouquet of today's most celebrated songwriters.
What better time and place to sit down with Andrea Marcovicci for a chat about her career, than in the lobby of the famed Algonquin Hotel, where she has been invited back annually since 1987-a feat surpassed only by Bobby Short's decades-long stint at the Carlyle-and where there is now a suite in her honor?
The "aha" moment
"I never take it for granted," says Marcovicci, who grew up in New York and has lived in Los Angeles for several years, but still gets a thrill every time she comes home. Greeting me with a warm hand clasp, a welcoming smile, and those glistening, knowing blue eyes, it’s easy to see why audiences and critics have been enthralled with her up-close appearances in intimate rooms.
Although her legacy as a cabaret singer and foremost interpreter of song has been cemented, it wasn’t Marcovicci’s first taste of success. In the early ’70s, she starred in the television soap opera "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" and in 1977 was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as "New Star of the Year" for the film "The Front." She went on to make many more film, stage and television appearances over the years.
She even dabbled in rock and pop, recording a disco album ("you can still get it," she laughs) and working with well-known producer Ron Dante. "He produced me to be the female Barry Manilow, but it didn’t work for very long," Marcovicci recalls.
Asked if there was an "aha" moment when she decided that cabaret would be her mainstay, she says, "It happened so gradually, there was never a switch. While I was singing at the Gardenia in L.A., I was still on "Berengers" (a nighttime television soap in 1985) and still doing theater and film. But once I had major agencies behind me, I ended up getting booked out and then the televisions shows would call and I wouldn’t drop everything to be available. One thing superseded the other."
Marcovicci goes on to say, "Every night that I walk out onto the stage and get to look and sing into the eyes of real live people, that’s an ’aha’ moment. It’s not a camera, it’s real, and it’s more moving to me. And every day I don’t have to wait for a phone to ring to be told what I can do for a living-that I may or may not be able to emote that day-that’s an ’aha’ moment."
Growing impassioned, she elaborates: "You have to be told you can act today? No! I would rather memorize a song by Noel Coward today, and that is a better lyric than you will ever give me in a television show, ever. How can you compare?"
She acknowledges, however, that she’d like to have a higher TVQ rating so that she could be invited to appear on morning talk shows. Later this year, she will appear in the Henry Jaglom film "Irene in Time" and she is hopeful that will increase her profile.
Nostalgia for old Hollywood
Marcovicci’s cabaret shows and recordings mainly gravitate toward nostalgia for great romance and the glamour of old Hollywood. "To be honest, I think it’s having an older father. He was 63 when I was born," she says. Although a doctor by trade, he also played piano and was a ballroom dancer. "My father was a very romantic figure, in his tuxedo or his dancing clothes."
"I always thought I’d grow up in an Audrey Hepburn/Greta Garbo world and, in some way, by singing at the Algonquin, I’ve done it. The music of the American Popular Songbook feeds into that fantasy because it’s so eloquent." She sums it up simply: "I was born to sing the music that my mother sings."
Not content to rest on her laurels, Marcovicci-who has already played Ophelia in "Hamlet," starred in Shaw’s "St. Joan," "Lady in the Dark" and "Coco"-still hopes to do some "startling work in theater" and make more of a mark in film. And she’d eventually like to do a one-woman show along the line of Elaine Stritch’s "At Liberty."
She has also discovered a love of teaching (she conducts a workshop every summer at the Perry Mansfield School in Colorado Springs) and the young Maude Maggart, Judy Butterfield and Jennifer Sheehan are considered her prot?g?s.
Not that the music is stopping: next up, is a Mercer show, followed by a show called "Just Torch." "And then I’d like to record the torch album of my dreams! Who says your heart can’t be broken after sixty?" she laughs.
Her catalogue of recordings is currently available on her own label, Andreasongs (also the name of her signature fragrance). "I didn’t want to wait when I had a creative idea to put something down and make it permanent," she explains. She admits that it wasn’t easy to go back and listen to all her recordings to come up with the greatest hits package. "It was very emotional, like going through old diaries."
Reminiscing about meeting Bill Clinton at a White House dinner, singing at Carnegie Hall, her first-ever singing with a symphony in Napa Valley ("It was so cold, the audience was throwing blankets at me"), bringing in the millennium with the Chicago Symphony or a show in Barcelona, still, Marcovicci is forever looking ahead.
At Town Hall on the 16th, the audience can expect two acts: the first, a tribute to the old songs; the second, a celebration of the new, with songwriters like Stephen Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, Julie Gold and John Bucchino, and the debut of a brand new song. "The whole second act is a party, and we’re going to marry the old with the new!" she enthuses.
Explaining the lure of cabaret, Marcovicci says, "In a world that is increasingly disconnected, my career is truly about connection and healing wounds. You are not going to get that in a big, noisy concert hall or in any other mode of live entertainment."
The Andrea Marcovicci 60th Birthday Concert is at Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, 8 pm, May 16. Tickets available at www.ticketmaster.com (212-307-4100), Town Hall box office (212-840-2824).
Ms. Marcovicci is also appearing at the MAC Awards on Monday, May18 at 7:30pm atBB King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W. 42nd Street, NYC, (Between Broadway and 8th Ave).
"As Time Goes By: The Best of Andrea Marcovicci" is available on May 19 (or at the concert) at www.cdbaby.com and www.andreamarcovicci.com.
This summer she will be appearing at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass. On Monday, August 17, 2009. And in the fall returns to the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel for six weeks (Tuesday, November 17 - Saturday, December 26) for her tribute to Johnny Mercer.