Melissa Errico on Why Actors Are So Crazy

The Tony-nominated actress talks ”Dracula, the Musical”, her recent vocal-cord surgery, and her upcoming show at 54 Below.

"Chris Hoch gets out his knife and stabs Kelli O'Hara. Down she goes, then back up to throw up all this glow-in-the-dark stuff; then she's gone," recalls Melissa Errico about her time in the Broadway cast of Frank Wildhorn's Dracula, the Musical. This was near the top of the second act, just before everything disappeared into trapdoors below the stage and Errico (who starred as Mina Murray) was left to sing "The Heart Is Slow to Learn," a slow and contemplative ballad. "I'm surrounded by all these holes and glow-in-the-dark vomit. I'm left alone with a thousand people to make sense of all that."

Errico speaks at liberty about this moment (and many more) in her latest 54 Below show, At the Corner of 54th & Crazy. It's chock-full of war stories from on stage and off. Errico talked to TheaterMania about a few of them:

Melissa Errico sings "The Heart Is Slow to Learn" from Dracula, the Musical at a recent preview for her upcoming engagement at 54 Below: At the Corner of 54th & Crazy.
Melissa Errico sings "The Heart Is Slow to Learn" from Dracula, the Musical at a recent preview for her upcoming engagement at 54 Below: At the Corner of 54th & Crazy.
(© Nessie Nankivell)

The last time you had a show at 54 Below, New York City was still reeling from Hurricane Sandy. How will your show be different this time?

Hopefully the city is calmer. There was no electricity downtown and I had a lantern that I kept onstage with me. It was my way to get home every night. I was wearing a sparkle sequined minidress and I had a lantern. So that colored my entire week. It was this chaotic and exciting feeling, being able to entertain people when they were in shock. I'd never been in a situation like that. It felt a little weird to perform. I thought, ''Is this appropriate?" But then it very much became fun, like a party. This time, however, chaos can come from within.

Do you like a certain chaos in your cabaret?

I do. My show's not going to be the same every night. I have a set list of about twenty songs, so the twelve songs I do each night could be completely different from the night before. I'm going to sing from Les Mis. I'm going to sing from Dracula. There will definitely be Sondheim. I'm dealing with a lot that's not about me and showbiz in this show. It's about life.

You've titled your show At the Corner of 54th and Crazy. Why crazy?

People always ask, Why are actors so nuts? Believe it or not, there are answers to that question! It's theater stories. It's what it takes to persists through the bumps in the road and disasters along the way. Sometimes you think that you learn from your mistakes, but you don't. You repeat them. We can't control our lives. I have three very small children so I'm juggling a lot. I have twins. My twins are only just now free from being babies. They were three-and-a-half the last time I was here. It's just a lot. For me to stay in show business, I have to embrace the craziness a little bit and kind of enjoy the weather, you know?

Speaking of bumps in the road, you recently underwent vocal-cord surgery. How was the recovery?

It was humbling and scary. The problem was small. The impact was large: I wasn't able to finish the run of Passion. I took that really hard. I probably experienced my first heartbreak: That was a really heartbreaking experience in my life. I loved the show so much. That was really hard.

So the trauma was more psychological than physical?

The actual medical problem was really small, so I had to be grateful. I didn't have a big problem. I had a tiny capillary that had to be treated. I had bronchitis. It can happen so easily; my issue probably came from singing with bronchitis. I had to just focus on my body and get well. I had an amazing doctor in Boston who did [singer] Adele's surgery. His walls are covered with some of the most famous voices in opera, Broadway, and recorded music. He said he could barely find the problem when he got to the operating table. He called my surgery "underwhelming."

What was that the biggest takeaway of that experience for you?

I didn't even realize how much I loved my career until this happened. I love this business and I hope there will always be a place for me in it. This is my chance to see or be seen for a few nights in New York…and also to wear something super inappropriate for my age.

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