Andrea Marcovicci confesses, at the top of her annual stint at the Algonquin, that Lorenz Hart is — quite simply — her favorite. This is instantly apparent: this is a show for people who love Rodgers & Hart.
The cabaret queen’s 21st year at the Oak Room — a clear indication of her excellence — benefits from the belief and understanding she brings to every lyric, making this set even better than usual. This is not the R & H of Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald; this is Hart with heart and humor. Marcovicci is not swinging famous old standards; she is singing songs, and great ones at that.
Marcovicci presents a mini-biography of the lyricist through song, retelling the sad saga of Larry Hart (1895-1943). It is intelligent, poignant, humorous and accurate. (“Unrequited love’s a bore,” goes one of his lyrics, “and I’ve got it pretty bad.”)
Highpoint of the set is a medley of “Falling in Love With Love,” “It Never Entered My Mind” and “Little Girl Blue,” three remarkable songs of unrequited love heartbreakingly rendered with tears welling.
Comedy runs rampant with “Ev’rything I’ve Got,” “To Keep My Love Alive,” and “A Little Birdie Tells Me So” (from the 1926 musical “Peggy-Ann,” a surprising treat). A section of songs written for Vivienne Segal — the singing comedienne who created the role of Vera Simpson in “Pal Joey” and to whom Hart proposed marriage on several occasions — is especially touching.
Singer is resplendent in a stunning black velvet dress appliqued with 16 white-silk swallows. (Marcovicci wore this dress — which dates from the 1930s — for her cabaret debut in 1976, and it’s quite something.) Silver drips from her neck, ears, wrist and fingers.
Marcovicci has the assurance, and the courage, not to bother forcing in snatches of “Manhattan,” “The Lady Is a Tramp” and other hits; she skillfully molds her portrait of the boys without them. Marcovicci understands Rodgers & Hart, all right.