The miraculous Andrea Marcovicci briefly returned to Philadelphia. One of the grandest divas of cabaret, Ms. Marcovicci seemed to own the fabled Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel for over 25 years. That venue has closed, but New York’s loss was Philadelphia’s gain as she appeared at The RRazz Room for one performance only.
Marcovicci is no stranger to this city. Who can forget her many cabarets at the Prince Music Theater, the Plays and Players Theatre, and especially her performance in Kurt Weill’s rarely seen Lady in the Dark. Though best known as a club performer, she has acted in television soap operas, and prime time series, major feature films and other musicals such as Nefertiti and Dance on a Country Grave. Her Saint Joan in San Francisco is still the best I’ve seen.
The RRazz Room, created in the Black Box Theater of the Prince Music Theater, will hopefully continue to bring world class cabaret to Philadelphia. (Recent performers included Tovah Feldshuh and Betty Buckley). The room is an intimate rectangle with red clothed table seating; (There is a two-drink minimum). Though it lacks the atmosphere of more permanent spaces, the simple arrangement must be easier to perform in than the Oak Room, which had a three-quarter arrangement. It’s also much less expensive. The acoustics, sound, and lighting were all basic but first-rate.
The typical Andrea Marcovicci show is a triumph of scholarship, acting, and music. She usually chooses a theme and then teaches us all that she has learned on the subject for 70 minutes. Past titles include a tribute to Fred Astaire, Kurt Weill in America, and Love Songs of World War Two. Her extensive research in leavened with her razor sharp wit: “As a young girl I fell in love with Fred Astaire. Anyone expecting a white knight in top hat, white tie and tails is in for a BIG surprise . . .though they can be rented.” Or “Finally I figure out what bothered me. I love Kurt Weill. . .I hate Brecht.” Or “They called World War Two the Good War. That’s an oxymoron. There are no good wars.”
This show was titled A Gershwin Valentine and we historians were quickly admonished: “Put your pad and pencils away. No lecture tonight. Just love, unrequited. . .and quited.”
She brought with her the usual duo of wonderful accompanists, Jared Egan on bass, with the great Shelly Markham on piano. As expected, they gave the great old tunes a fresh polish. The loyal audience was prepared for her anticipated and excellent renditions of poems by Sara Teasdale and Edna St. Vincent Millay. . .(“She liked being called Vincent.”)
Along with the expected Gershwin standards (“S’Wonderful,”, “Slap that Bass”) you can always expect the research to turn up a buried treasure. In this case it was from the British Musical Primrose. “Some Far Away Someone,” would be a standard had Broadway heard it.
Young cabaret performers have much to learn from someone who has been a star for over a quarter-century. Dressed in an elegant Victorian style gown, she made every gesture, every move count in unrivaled elegance.
It must be admitted that the artiste was not in good voice on Sunday afternoon. Vocal clams abounded, and held notes wandered up and down the scale. As she sat on the piano she pondered: “I climb onto the piano. I used to hop. I can still hop onto the piano, but it’s dangerous.”
There was one exception. Halfway through her emotional rendition of “The Man I Love” it all fell away. Suddenly the voice returned, and the music became the experience. It seemed that we were back in the Oak Room, with its warm paneling and elegant sconces from another era. As she quotes Oscar Levant: “Happiness is not something you experience. It is something you remember.”
Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Andrea Marcovicci: A Gershwin Valentine played for one-night-only only on November 20, 2016 at the RRazz Room in the Harold Prince Music Theater – 412 Chestnut Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For further events visit their website.