Regional Reviews: Seattle
Andrea Sings Astaire
Andrea Marcovicci is arguably the finest talent who (to date) has never come to Broadway with a hit Broadway show. No one can argue her status as the reigning cabaret diva of our time. Now the actress/singer par excellence has arrived to re-ignite cabaret in Seattle, specifically at the Bullitt Cabaret space in ACT Theatre. She comes bearing the gift of what she has called her favorite show, Andrea Sings Astaire, and any real musical theatre buff should not miss it. They should also bring along a member of the younger generation who may (heaven forbid!) not know who Fred Astaire was, let alone who Andrea herself is, for the show is exhilarating entertainment and an education in Astaire and in the essence of the cabaret form herself.
One does not go to a Marcovicci show exclusively for the songs. The "chatty chanteuse" is an expert storyteller and this show is part Astaire's story, and part Andrea's own infatuation with the man and his music. Only in a history cabaret such as this are we able to hear so many great composer/lyricists contributions to the Great American songbook. Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, George and Ira Gershwin, Harry Warren, Arthur Freed, Roger Edens and, of course, Irving Berlin are among the artists who wrote for Astaire.
Andrea opens strong with a medley of "Night and Day" (sung to a photo of Astaire signed by Cole Porter) and the swinging "Something's Gotta Give." She gives us lots of info on the Astaire/Ginger Rogers teaming, including clarifying that they didn't get along (they did, but didn't socialize). She lets us know in no uncertain terms her own feelings about the other Astaire partners, from unbridled admiration for Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth, to open disdain for the little known Lucille Bremer, to an assessment that Judy Garland stole the spotlight from Astaire (in Easter Parade) because of her well known assortment of neuroses.
Astaire's own songwriting is deliciously present in "I'm Building Up to An Awful Let Down", and a slew of other favorites are on the musical menu as well. Marcovicci plays with and seduces her audience members in a manner I have only seen equaled by Eartha Kitt. Her humor and individuality are strong, and the show just keeps getting better and better. A sing along on "Cheek to Cheek" allows her to sneak off to make a costume change into the traditional Astaire formal wear, complete with, of course, top hat.
The singer's arranger/pianist Shelly Markham and bass player Dan Fabricant offer richly satisfying accompaniment throughout. A bonus and a thrill the night I saw the show was the genial presence in the audience of Astaire's grandson, the son of Astaire's only daughter Ava. If Andrea was a touch nonplused by this, it barely showed and didn't deter her from retaining her near closing remarks about Astaire's second, much younger wife Robyn Smith, who wed Fred in his twilight years. Ava and Robyn didn't see eye to eye, and in general Astaire fans resent Robyn's stance on keeping images of Fred away from the public. But Andrea's research led her to believe that Robyn was a loving and caring wife to Fred Astaire, and she makes it clear that she wants to believe that.
We all want to believe it, and I want to believe that through word of mouth Andrea Marcovicci will draw SRO crowds for the remainder of her engagement. Ticket prices ($50-75) are steep, but it is money well spent if an audience for cabaret can reemerge in this city, bringing in the likes of Klea Blackhurst, Barbara Cook, and of course another dose of the bewitching elixir known as Andrea Marcovicci.
Andrea Sings Astaire runs through October 7 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street, downtown Seattle. For more information go to ACT online at www.acttheatre.org.- David Edward Hughes