It's hard to believe that the urbane and sophisticated Andrea Marcovicci resisted the work of the urbane and sophisticated Cole Porter for so long. Both trade in words so well, you would have thought they'd be the perfect match -- and you'd be right. But for some reason, though Marcovicci is in her fifteenth year as a headliner at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room, she is only now, for the first time, bringing us a Cole Porter show. To her credit, she didn't do it the easy way, by filling her act with the composer's most famous songs; instead, she has found a comfortable niche in Porter's love songs, be they famous or not.
There are several secrets to Marcovicci's success as a cabaret performer, and one of them is her ability to make each and every person in a packed house feel as if she's singing and talking directly to them. In fact, she often literally does just that, walking among the audience in the Oak Room to commune with the patrons, play with their hair, sit on their laps, and make small talk that somehow always feels like it's all of a piece with the show.
In her patter, Marcovicci gives us Porter's bigger-than-life life story. Being a romantic, she tells a tale that largely revolves around the composer's relationship with his wife, Linda. While conceding that Porter was gay, Marcovicci doesn't back up a step in insisting that Porter and Linda were lovers of the first rank in their fundamental devotion to each other.
All of this is wonderfully entertaining because Marcovicci is a delightful storyteller; in the same way that Fred Astaire could open a chain of dance studios, Andrea Marcovicci could open a chain of charm schools. Audiences don't come to hear her voice (it's not her strong suit), they come to be rapt in her spell. When she sings a Cole Porter song like "I'm in Love Again," the heady mix of her ineffable personality and his intoxicating music will make you fall in love with this and other lesser-known selections. But fear not: There are enough famous Porter numbers in this act to provide safe harbor for patrons who might otherwise feel at sea. Marcovicci sings "Let's Misbehave," "Why Can't You Behave?" and several other Porter classics, yet she doesn't use these songs as anchors; like the less-famous ones, they are presented in service to the arc of the act, which culminates in a series of 10 songs that might form the basis of a newly conceived Cole Porter musical about romance.
Chosen with the help of gifted musical director-pianist Shelly Markham, these 10 songs display Porter's decidedly modern sensibility. The composer-lyricist' approach to romance begins with infatuation ("I Get a Kick Out of You"). Eventually, the love affair burns out ("Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye") and there is the realization that it was simply not to be ("Just One of Those Things"). Lesser artists would leave the story there, but Marcovicci shares Porter's longer view of relationships. She continues the arc as old lovers ask "How's Your Romance" and eventually admit, "Weren't We Fools?" Finally, though, what else can one do but laugh? So Marcovicci wraps up the sequence with the dizzy patter song "Let's Not Talk About Love."
Andrea Marcovicci continues her show at the Oak Room through January 11, 2003; for more information, click here.
[More reviews by the Siegels can be found at www.cabarethotlineonline.com. For information on the First Annual Nightlife Awards, to be co-presented by Scott Siegel in January at The Town Hall, click here]