Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Marcovicci's Rodgers and Hart Show Comes to NJPAC
Also see Bob's review of Sight Unseen
Andrea Marcovicci is the most sophisticated and theatrical of American cabaret artists. Every year or so, Marcovicci brings her audience a new show which she has assiduously researched and written. Last Saturday, Marcovicci brought her 1997 Rodgers and Hart show, Marcovicci Sings Rodgers and Hart, to NJPAC's lovely Chase Room for two performances. The framework which she has devised for her musical program drawn from the superb Rodgers and Hart catalogue focuses largely on the difficult life of the brilliant Lorenz Hart. By the conclusion of her ninety-minute stint, Marcovicci has sung 25 songs and given us a loving and sympathetic portrait of a troubled and conflicted lyrical genius. Ultimately, Marcovicci proposes that Hart included a heartwrenching expression of a deeply felt, hidden passion in one of his final lyrics. In doing so, she provides a moving and satisfying theatrical conclusion to the show.
The unique wit and intricate rhymes of Hart provide material which enables Marcovicci to give full sway to her unsurpassed skill as an interpreter of lyrics. Often employing arrangements which reflect dance and popular music styles of the 1920s and '30s, some of her vocals really swing. Her "This Can't Be Love" puts a smile on your face and a tap in your toe. Although her voice will likely always remain a bit frayed, Marcovicci was in relatively strong voice at the earlier of her two NJPAC shows Saturday.
Andrea Marcovicci performs a well balanced mix of Rodgers and Hart classics, less well known beauties and even a couple of rarities. If you have never heard "Any Old Place with You" (wittily presented with a chart illustrating Hart's witty rhyming of unlikely far away places) and "If I Were You" (Betsy, 1926), retrieved by Marcovicci from the Library of Congress, you will want to discover them. She delights with an overview of the theatrical oeuvre of Rodgers and Hart and anecdotes concerning them and other theater luminaries of their era. Also in the mix are darker stories concerning Hart and his shadowy friend Doc Bender, who purportedly procured drugs and men for him.
Marcovicci mentions Ruth Etting in what appears to be a run-up to "Ten Cents a Dance." When she fails to complete her thought or sing the song, it appears that she erroneously had strayed into material which she had intended to omit. There are some updated lyrics which can be awkward. After all, Robert Taylor and our new President do not fit comfortably in the same lyric. Given Marcovicci's interpretive skills, I felt let down when she sang a pop, rather than a theatre, version of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."
Andrea Marcovicci is a generous performer who performs with a sense of joy and spontaneity which makes this show feel freshly minted. Her musical director Shelly Markham (piano) and Jered Egan (bass) provide expert accompaniment. With Marcovicci Sings Rodgers and Hart, Andrea Marcovicci maintains the exceptional high standard which have long marked her cabaret presentations.
Andrea Marcovicci: Marcovicci Sings Rodgers and Hart was performed on January 24, 2009 at 7:00 & 9:30 PM at the Chase Room at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), One Center Street, Newark, NJ 07102; Box Office: 888-466-5722 ; online www.njpac.org
Upcoming Cabaret Performances at the Chase Room
Sat, March 28, 2009 Paula West and the George Mesterhazy Orchestra
Sat., April 25,, 2009 Steve Tyrell- Back to Bacharach
Sat., May 16, 2009 Karen Mason