Andrea Marcovicci labels herself a “chatty chanteuse” with a knack for creating nostalgia for people, places and things that never really existed. In her show at the Algonquin Hotel — her 17th season in the hallowed Oak Room — Marcovicci pays tribute to Fred Astaire, the legendary hoofer who elevated tap dancing to a high art and delivered songs with a unique sense of heart, grace and simplicity.
Like her film idol, Marcovicci possesses a light, reedy voice that has the capacity to caress a song with a warming embrace that became Astaire’s signature vocal style. It was his uniquely subtle and direct phrasing that prompted Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins to pen songs exclusively tailored to his unforced method.
Astaire introduced more hit songs than any other recording star for over three decades, dotting the Great American Songbook with such classics as “Night and Day,” “A Foggy Day” and “Change Partners.” They are included among the over two-dozen great standards featured in “Andrea Sings Astaire.”
Marcovicci, glamorously perched on the piano, sings one of Astaire’s own compositions — “I’m Building up to an Awful Letdown” (a collaboration with lyricist Johnny Mercer) with the kind of torchy grandeur that makes one yearn for the return of the Technicolor musical. With ballroom lights twinkling, the chanteuse weaves among the tables and into the dark corners of the room with the classic self-pity of “One for My Baby.”
Marcovicci also puts the syncopated joie de vivre of “The Continental” into its proper perspective, reminding listeners that the tune was reprised onscreen for a mere 17-minute sequence. The high point of the show is “This Heart of Mine,” a song by Harry Warren and Arthur Freed that framed Astaire as a romantic jewel thief. Also masterful at theft, Marcovicci steals the heart.
In a daring and classy finale, Marco the magnificent cues the audience into a “Cheek to Cheek” sing-along, which it warbles as she exits the stage for a costume change from her Ginger Rogers-like fur, split train and truffles to slip into a smart tux and bow tie for the signature “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” closer.
It is the epitome of elegance and showbiz savvy.