Home may be where the heart is, but as Andrea Marcovicci proved on the opening night of Smile, her delicious new show that marks her debut at the Cafe Carlyle, home is where the pictures of Fred Astaire, the adoring fans, and even the ukulele are.
After spending 25 straight years as the so-called Queen of the now-defunct Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, Marcovicci has effortlessly made the move uptown, bringing another of her scrupulously constructed evenings dedicated to the Great American Songbook – and to a lesser extent, the performers who defined it, such as Astaire, Bing Crosby, and Hildegarde.
While the occasion was tinged with just a touch of bittersweetness, this show more than lives up to its title, leaving audiences consistently grinning for its 70-minute duration. Indeed, how can one not smile when Marcovicci, clad in a gold-sequined gown, begins by accompanying herself on that ukulele for a charmingly understated take on "It's Only a Paper Moon"?
Eschewing her traditional fondness for ballads, Marcovicci continues through this exploration of joy by indulging in a 25-song set of mostly lighthearted tunes ranging from "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries" through the novelty tune "Mairzy Doats," the endlessly clever "Shakespeare Lied" (by Elmer Bernstein and Carolyn Leigh), and John Lennon and Paul McCartney's delightful "When I'm Sixty Four," which instantly became an audience singalong.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Marcovicci show without a little bit of education. Before "Ain't We Got Fun," the chanteuse not only gives us some useful history about the song – which was written in 1921 in response to life in post-World War I America – but performs its rarely-heard verses, so we will never hear this ditty the same way again.
She also, as usual, uncovers some little-known gems, from Babbie Green's beautiful "(I Asked) the Moon," which kicks off a smartly arranged medley about codependency, to Robert Waldman and Philip Nanmanworth's adorable paean to a child, "Look at Those Eyes," and Alecia Moore and Billy Mann's pop-rockish love song "Glitter in the Air."
It's good to know that even if Andrea Marcovicci's New York venue has changed, this one-of-a-kind performer hasn't – and she wouldn't have it any other way.