Liz, Tom, and I saw Andrea Marcovicci in concert at 54 Below on 11/17/18. I first heard about Marcovicci in Wisconsin, reading about her in the New Yorker. She seemed like the epitome of Manhattan class and style. I heard her out on Long Island in 2015 and was touched by her artistry. I heard that she was retiring from the stage and I knew I had to be there. I call the show the Marcovicci Arrivederci.
She opened with an old English song I didn’t know, “Apples On the Lilac Tree.” She said later that it was a song her mother sang to her when she was a little girl.
She said that everything she learned about manipulating men she learned from that song, or from *I Love Lucy.* “I never understood why there was such trouble in that marriage - - why didn’t he just let her perform at the club?”
That song led into “One Life To Live,” an urbane Kurt Weill song, what a treat to hear Marcovicci sing it.
She introduced her “pianist, music director, traveling companion, and best friend,” Shelly Markham. He was delicious, filling things out when she needed a stretch, nudging things forward when she needed a boost, staying in the shadows, taking the spotlight, everything you could want in a collaborative pianist.
She’s been through a lot in the last couple of years: her mother died and her daughter graduated from college. Plus her 70th birthday was the next day. She said it was daunting putting together the songs for a farewell concert - - she decided to do a mixture of songs she loved and hadn’t done in years and songs she has always wanted to do but never got around to it.
She did a lovely song with the refrain, “I go where no one knows me, and I dance.” One of the high points of the show was a song cycle Markham wrote for her, three songs strung together about a woman in love with a man named Henry, then realizing that Henry was cheating on her, then deciding that she was going to stay with Henry. The songs were funny and heartbreaking, structured in a way that drew you into the story and highlighted the emotional journey. They were like a three-song contemporary *Frauenliebe und -leben,* a song cycle by Schumann. Without the guy dying at the end.
She did a song she’d heard Betty Garrett do, about a town called Meera (sp?). Garrett was particularly inspiring because she was 70 and sang the song in a backless leotard, a peasant skirt, and barefoot. Marcovicci sang “Ribbons Down My Back” from *Hello, Dolly!*, the song that was stuck in my head all the way home. She sang in a straightforward way, but full of meaning. I don’t think I’ll ever hear it sung more beautifully.
She sang a darling song from 1919, introduced by Gertrude Lawrence in the English music hall, a song about a woman meeting a man on the train. Rather racy for 1919!
She dedicated the next song to Mabel Mercer. I’ll paraphrase Marcovicci: “Mercer used to do three shows a night in this town. The last show was at 2 AM. I’m doing a show tonight at 9:30, and that feels really, REALLY LATE.” The Mercer song she sang was an Alec Wilder song with the refrain, “It it always like this when you fall in love.”
She gave a shout-out to her twenty-five years performing at the Algonquin. A critic at the time called her “the thinking man’s torch singer.” Not bad! She sang a suite four Irving Berlin torch songs: “Say It Isn’t So,” “What’ll I Do?”, “Remember,” and “Suppertime.” This set was the high point of the show for me, I was in tears during “What’ll I Do?” These songs have been sung a million times but Marcovicci sang them in such a direct, personal, meaningful way, it was stunning.
She sang a funny song called “Between Men.” Then she gave a touching tribute to her mother, who had been a torch singer who gave up her career when she met Dr. Marcovicci. Her mother's idea of a lullaby was "Stormy Weather." Marcovicci took her mother on tour with her and would let her mother do the encore - - “So I was out there for an hour and fifteen minutes singing, and my MOTHER got the standing ovation.” Marcovicci put on a big feather boa and sang “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore,” as her mother.
Then she sang her mother’s signature song, “Take Me In Your Arms.” Gorgeous song, here it is sung by Helen Grayco:
I should apologize for the sketchy nature of some of the information in this review - - this is a problem with a cabaret show, you often don’t get a list of songs and have to kind of make it up, and I want to somehow include every song she sang, it was such a momentous show. The next song has the most sketchy details, it was a song called “Springtime” from a musical with a title something like *Yelna.* She sang it in English and Yiddish, it was devastating.
She sang “The Kind of Love You Never Recover From,” beautiful. She wrapped things up by bringing us back to the fact that this was her farewell concert - - she said it had become exhausting to be out on the road, and quoted Peggy Lee: “The only good thing about dying is you don’t have to pack.”
She closed with a song that Markham wrote with Lesley Alexander, expressly for Marcovicci, for this show. It was called “Crossing Time.” She got about halfway through the song and went up on the words. She apologized, turned back to the piano, took up the sheet music (she must have known this was a possibility), put on her glasses, and sang the rest of the song. At the end, she dropped the music, took off her glasses, and finished it from memory. This slip-up only made the performance more touching and special.
Her encore was “The Fools Who Dream,” which was stunning. I was shocked to hear from my friend Karen (who was sitting next to me, at the next table) that this song was from *La La Land,* a movie I really didn’t like. No, I don’t think it’s quite time for me to give the movie another chance. I’d rather remember Marcovicci singing it.