Celebrating her 15th anniversary appearance at the legendary Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, cabaret diva Andrea Marcovicci re-creates the playful era of Manhattan’s Cafe Society, defined by the diva as “a once-polite society” whose members “wanted to have fun, stay out all night and dance.”
In a program of classic tunes from the 1930s and ’40s, Marcovicci summons an era when “Cocktails went with music, before beer went with TV.” In the new cafe climate, where smoking is a no-no and patrons sip designer water, the singer suggests her program might lure patrons to smoke and drink again. Cole Porter’s “Make It Another Old Fashioned, Please,” Ethel Merman’s 1940 clarion call, is certainly a case in point.
Marcovicci recalls an era dominated by the songs of Porter, Rodgers & Hart and the Gershwins, and singers such as Hildegarde and Mabel Mercer. From the Mercer repertoire, Marcovicci sang Alec Wilder’s picturesque invitation “Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneden’s?” and Bart Howard’s “You Are Not My First Love.”
It’s easy to overlook the singer’s often wobbly pitch control. Her soprano has an appealing edge, and she knows how to work the room and hold the listener in the palm of her hand. From her unconventionally jaunty opening take on “Star Dust” to the unbearable heartbreak of “It’s the Talk of the Town,” Marcovicci reveals the truth of a lyric.
The party isn’t all sweet gloom. With a kind of naughty playfulness, she quotes Dorothy Parker witticisms, reads poetry from China’s sixth dynasty and even invites the aud to sing along.
With a plaintive reading of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” the singer dedicated her closing medley to the late cabaret-jazz singer and Oak Room fixture Susannah McCorkle, who died last week. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.