Symbolically if not financially, one might say that Andrea Marcovicci owns a piece of the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel. Her new show, “No Strings” (November 15-December 30), marks the 25th anniversary of her appearances there, a record run. She is intimately identified with the supper club and the Oak Room is identified with her. The renowned cabaret venue is home territory, a base from which she has ventured to perform internationally. It is fitting that her latest theme reflect her travels, personally and professionally, as delineated in the informative and amusing tidbits interspersed with her song selections.
What are the ingredients that have kept Marcovicci a star so long? You could see them in play on opening night of her latest run.
One steady strength is her acting ability, reflected in the many credits she has in film, television and theater. I first interviewed her when she was in the film “The Front” (1976), with Woody Allen. Marcovicci doesn’t just sing a lyric; she enacts a song so that an audience is immersed in what lyrics impart on various levels. This provides intelligent communication, a quality that triumphs even when one’s voice inevitably isn’t at its earlier peak. Marcovicci on a cabaret stage is an actress through and through.
There is also scholarship behind her performances. She is versed in the American Songbook, and her being a movie fan has merged with her knowledge, so that she can bring along music history to her performances, thus giving the audience information as part of the entertainment. She also as a playful sense of humor, as when on opening night she referred to a parody of “New York, New York,” with music being piped into a ladies room with the lyric, “If they can play it here, they’ll play it anywhere.”
Above and beyond those factors, Marcovicci has the gift of making a performance cozy. She is given to wandering among audience members, sometimes singing directly to someone, singling out notables in the room and creating a party atmosphere. There is charm galore, and her digressions have the effect of spontaneity even if planned. She was quite emotional at the end of her latest opening night in expressing her appreciation for the enthusiastic reception for her program. She also warmly paid tribute to her long-time music director and pianist, Shelly Markham and to Jered Egan on bass, both of whom serve the show well.
For this opening she appeared in a long black gown, the material decorated with white doves. Her first numbers “Sail Away” and “Let’s Get Away from It All” suggested the on-the-move theme. Appropriately, she sang “Back at the Algonquin” by Enid Futterman and Michael Cohen. She paid tribute to Portia Nelson, whom she knew and admired, and sang Nelson’s “Sunday in New York,” followed by “Two for the Road” by Leslie Bricusse and Henry Mancini.
Showing her penchant for variety, after singing “As Time Goes By” by Herman Hupfeld, she had fun with Hupfeld’s tongue-twister novelty number, “When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba.”
What would traveling be without Paris? Marcovicci sang “Under Paris Skies” and “The Night I fell in Love With Paris.” Some of her other choices were “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?,” “No Strings,” “By Myself,” “A Foggy Day,” “You Belong to Me,” and the celebratory “Here’s to Us.”
Finally, Marcovicci closed opening night with tribute to cabaret, asserting, “Cabaret is an art form. Cabaret is a calling. May the Oak Room stay forever and ever.” Reviewed at the Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street. Reservations: 212-419-9331or at email@example.com