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Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & More

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Today we are featuring the luminescent and golden-voiced Melissa Errico and talking to her all about her sumptuous new album LEGRAND AFFAIR - featuring the music of famed Broadway and Hollywood composer Michel Legrand - and how the labor of love five years in the making has finally come to light with this week's highly-anticipated release of the romantic and moving album. In addition to analyzing the process of putting the project together alongside the legendary Legrand, Errico also shares her thoughtful and passionate insights into the many different worlds inherent in the evocative songs themselves - many with lyrics by Barbra Streisand's constant collaborators, Alan and Marilyn Bergman - and how closely Errico worked with album producers Phil Ramone and Richard Jay-Alexander on perfecting the sound, style, mood and final song list of LEGRAND AFFAIR. Additionally, Errico and I also travel back in time and touch upon her many notable stage appearances over the years - including illustrative comments on her Broadway debut in MY FAIR LADY, as well as starring in HIGH SOCIETY, FINIAN'S RAINBOW, DRACULA, Legrand's own AMOUR, and, most recently, WHITE CHRISTMAS - and she also shares her excitement for the upcoming tenth anniversary reunion concert of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE at the Kennedy Center in 2012, co-starring Raul Esparza. Plus, news on her forthcoming appearance on Patrick Wilson's A GIFTED MAN on CBS and feature film PATRIMONY, and, all the details on her charity organization, Bowery Babes - as well as thoughts on GLEE, Sondheim and much, much more!

For more information and to purchase LEGRAND AFFAIR go to the Ghostlight Records site here.

Concepts, Albums, Color & Life


PC: One of my most treasured theatrical memories and perhaps the greatest production I've ever seen is the 2002 Kennedy Center revival of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE you did with Raul Esparza.

ME: He introduced me on Monday - we did this thing on Monday and I stepped in for Barbara Cook - and Raul was just incredible. All about how "she is my favorite costar" and he went on and on about SUNDAY. [Sighs.] Raul and I have something!

PC: You can say that again! Your chemistry was incredible.


ME: Well, we have something between us as people. But, at the time, we were new to each other - we were cast without ever meeting. And, he was Cuban and I was Italian, so we used to call it "The Cuban/Italian Sunday In The Park". [Laughs.]

PC: That's so funny.


ME: I remember we had that great idea to do "Color And Light" with me in a bathtub.

PC: Nude.

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MoreME: Nude. [Laughs.] But, I was trying to think about how if you are actually in this unbelievably tight love affair but he is so driven to finish the hat, as it were - how do you show how attached she is and how much she wants to lure him away from that work and how much they have between them? And, I just thought that to be there with the bubbles and then just wanting to go out for one night - it's not that she didn't want him to be a painter - it was just that it was like, "Tonight is so delicious and we are here and you said we were going, so we're going, and I'm getting ready! And I'm going to smell yummy because I'll be in my bubble bath first and then I'll put on my best little polka dot dress." That's what she's doing while she's flicking the little bubbles around and trying to get his attention - and, he's on a roll.

PC: It's so complex.


ME: I thought it would be so tragic and awful a feeling to not even to be able to get him to look. I would feel so awful. I was so happy to kick up my legs and do the whole follies thing - I thought that would be very different. But, Sondheim was not sure about it - he was in all the rehearsals.

PC: What happened?

ME: He was a little bit not sure about it. It was funny because I think I was new at the time to understand the level of understand or fear you should have when around him, you know?

PC: He's the king.

ME: I just was like, "Oh, I think that's a great idea," and, Raul was the same way. We were both - not flip, but we thought we should run with it. We weren't that careful. But, he let us do it - and he wrote new lyrics!

PC: I completely forgot about that. What were the lines?

ME: It was in the lines about "more scent" instead of "more rouge".

PC: In "Color And Light"?


ME: Yes. It was all about everything being more scent, more soap - it was all to do with little bottles and little baubles and things that would smell nice. I would dab some around my neck; I poured a little something in the tub; some oil - the whole thing.

PC: That's so interesting. It was such a magnificent production.


ME: I know! It would be so wonderful if it could be remembered in some way or put up on YouTube - even if that might be naughty! [Laughs.]

PC: The Act One Finale was one of the transcendental moments in theatre this century - those moments don't come along very often.

ME: Yeah. I am realizing that more and more - and, I'm not making a segue way, but my album is another one of those things that will never come around again. It's just an outrageous improbability that happened. It was the same way with the Sondheim festival.

PC: A chance occurrence.


ME: I agree. There was something that Raul wants out of life - something in his eyes - I see something so soft in him; such warmth and love. I know he is so smart and intense and he just ravages his roles - I mean, he's just unbelievable - but, for me, there is something so soft to me about him.

PC: A vulnerability.

ME: Yeah, I mean, even talking to him on the phone the other day and we talked about the concert and, even though Barbara Cook pulled out and we ended up giving a different concert, we were very relaxed. We just hang. When we were backstage, we weren't under pressure - we were very calm. It's like athletes who are very calm as a team, if that makes any sense.

PC: Of course it does.

ME: Like, my husband used to be a tennis player and he was very famous for doubles playing - there is just a chemistry between certain people.

PC: Totally.


ME: So, anyway, there is something between us - for as nutty as our performances are and what our ideas are, we are unbelievably calm together.

PC: A great rapport - like with you and your husband, too.

ME: Yes, I wish he could be a stage door Johnny again because he did it so well! [Laughs.] But, thank you for saying that about SUNDAY - that was a really great time.

PC: And you are going to be doing it again with Raul at the Kennedy Center in 2012, yes?

ME: Yeah, we are doing it at the Kennedy Center, but just in concert form. No nude scene and Impressionistic bathtub [Laughs.] - I'm sure you already know and I am not justifying my nudity, but the Impressionistic period was full of scenes in the bath...

PC: Of course.

ME: I mean, I was an art history major, so I always feel like I have to explain that - someone else actually just said to me today, "You did nudity in DRACULA?!" [Sighs.]

PC: Who could possibly forget it!


ME: Well... [Laughs.] there wasn't as much historical art background to that. [Laughs.]

PC: Perhaps not, but in the workshop of the original SUNDAY there was supposed to be a nude scene but Bernadette Peters refused to do it at the time, so it never ended up happening.

ME: Oh, did she? Interesting. I have one other nude scene in me - I am not going to tell you what show it is, though. I mean, no one has asked me to produce this musical, anyway, but I do have a vision! [Laughs.]

PC: No hints?

ME: It's not really a "nude scene", per se, but it's just a moment where I think the character should be rolling around. I'm sure no one is clamoring for my opinion on what's next that has to be revived! [Laughs.]

PC: So, speaking of Sondheim and since you performed at it: how was the treasure hunt?
Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & More

ME: It was amazing.

PC: I heard it was simply magnificent from those who attended.


ME: Yeah. It was. I think I am on a Sondheim thing now - I think I am ready to understand the process of his work and the mission. I think I am really, finally ready for it. I have a lot of affinity right now for him - right now more than I ever have before. I don't know what show, but I just know that every time I get the chance to sing his stuff it is working for me and I love it.

PC: You'd be a superb Clara or Fosca.

ME: That's funny you should mention that because someone just asked me about doing that! We'll see. [Pause.]

PC: So you'd consider PASSION?

ME: It's a little tricky to know how I would do it physically - I just don't know - but, I am looking at it right now.

PC: I have interviewed your DRACULA co-star Kelli O'Hara a few times in this column, so I'm curious what you think of your contemporaries such as her and Raul, who, of course, we just spoke about?

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MoreME: She's my ultimate friend! I love her. Kelli and I are great. That whole nude thing with DRACULA came up earlier today when I was with another friend and they were like, "Kelli was naked?!" And, she was! But, you know, she and I are really kind of nerdy. It's not like either of us would volunteer to do that... we're like these leading nerds!

PC: That's so funny.

ME: I mean, we're not the first people to rip our clothes off! She's such a sensual person and a fantastic woman, but she's not the first to be like, "Oh, great! I'll rip my clothes off!" She didn't really want to do it - and I didn't want to do it! So, they had this idea to put her in a nude suit. [Laughs.]

PC: What was that?

ME: Did she ever tell you this story?

PC: Not that I remember.

ME: Oh, they just gave her this awful, awful nude suit. I never will forget it and we always laugh so hard. It was this thing she had to put on to make her look nude. It was all so silly. It was one of the best laughs of my career - the nude suit thing. It didn't even look real - you can't make nude flesh. It just looks crazy. I think that she just ended up just doing the nudity because the other thing was so much worse. She looked like Spider-man because everything was drawn on - her shoulder-blades and... everything! [Laughs.]

PC: What did you think of SPIDER-MAN?


ME: Well, I haven't seen SPIDER-MAN, so I can't say. I don't, in theory, think it's wrong what they're doing, though. I do have to say that I recently took my kids to see MARY POPPINS, and the big bottle of medicine scared my daughter a little bit, but I thought the production was delicious and I loved it otherwise. I saw it with the original girl in the lead and she was really great.

PC: Ashley Brown. She has done this column, as well. A real talent.

ME: She can do everything.

PC: I adored AMOUR and I think the cast album is a beautiful rendering of Michel's music that he wrote for it. A real treat.

ME: I mean, it was odd source material... [Laughs.]

PC: Needless to say!

ME: But, DRACULA to AMOUR - I guess everything is odd!

PC: You can say that again.

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MoreME: I think it was really lovely, but I think that if we had better special effects we would have been in a very different situation - especially if it was magical and shocking when he walked through the walls. But, the main problem was that it just wasn't working. The special effects didn't work and, I mean, one time the wall fell on the audience!

PC: How wild. I've heard that that happened.

ME: So, not only was he not walking through the walls, but the walls were falling! Then, I think there were nights where they had to put two stools on either side of the stage and then they said, "Pretend this is a bakery," - and they put a piece of bread on the stool - "And, this is a jewelry shop," - and they put a necklace on the stool. [Laughs.]

PC: That sounds difficult to endure as someone onstage every night.


ME: Yeah, I think they just needed that effect to be something crazy. Like, to make you go, "How did they do that?"

PC: Magical.


ME: Yeah - and, then, I think everything else would have fallen into place. It would have still been a bit of a dream since it is really weird - I mean, how insane was the court scene?

PC: With the nun who reveals herself as the nymphomaniac!

ME: I know! The whole thing was so crazy. Then, I busted out that can-can which killed my knees. But, I could always do these great cartwheels - like, I've done cartwheels in most of my Broadway shows. I had a cartwheel in HIGH SOCIETY. I had a cartwheel in SUNDAY IN THE PARK because Sondheim loved my cartwheel.

PC: I'll never forget it!

ME: I came out of the mechanical dress and did a cartwheel.

PC: I was just going to say...

ME: I also did a cartwheel in MY FAIR LADY. I think I have the best cartwheel on Broadway - that is the only thing I am sure of. But, I'm a little old now to do cartwheels, I guess - but, I can still do them.

PC: And you wore the original mechanical dress in that SUNDAY, correct?


ME: I did! I did. It was so incredible. It was actually faulty, so the dress was absolutely terrifying to wear because we weren't sure when it would open. And, wearing Bernadette's dress was like donning this incredible holy relic - I was so excited. I have to tell you: I am really, really into Bernadette.

PC: You are a big fan?


ME: I am, like, dysfunctionally into Bernadette.

PC: Have you seen her in FOLLIES yet? She is stupendous in it.


ME: No, I haven't gone yet - but I am going to. There is something about her performances that touch me so deeply as a person.

PC: And your album's producer, Richard Jay-Alexander, has worked with her on many of her best concerts and recordings.

ME: I know! It's crazy. I am so lucky.

PC: The new EPK you two did for the new album is so great.

ME: Well, he is just so generous and supportive of me. You know, he always wants me to stay positive. When I am negative, which is quite often, he always says, "I don't live at that address!" And, then, he hangs up!

PC: That's a good method, though - very Michael Bennett.


ME: [Laughs.] He is really, really, really kind and so positive. But, there's the discipline of always having a good attitude, too. I have a good attitude in my life, but in the business - I mean, I am at a different stage in my life now. I am in a new chapter. It's sort of a period of renewal for me right now. I had to look myself in the mirror - actually, it was when I was doing DRACULA.

PC: What happened?


ME: Well, Kelli used to come in my dressing room - and she's a few years younger than me, remember - and, she said, "So, when are you going to have kids?" And, I remember that really irritated me - she didn't mean to, of course - but, I hadn't thought of it! So, bless her heart, she's one of the people that started asking me that. Then, my doctor had more impact and actually told me, "You have to have kids soon because it will be easy now - you are young. If you keep waiting it will not be easy." I remember Kelli - in her candid and sweet way - just wondering where that fits in in one's life, you see?

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MorePC: Thank goodness it all worked out - for you both.

ME: Yes. I am so happy for her that she had her son, Owen, and that, here I am, now, with three of my own. She is so happy for me, too, and I am so happy for her. But, she had sight of having that whole life and shared that view with me.

PC: What a wonderful story.

ME: Yeah. So, I am returning now to the world of the theatre and I left as someone without children and without those psychic obligations - you know, mentally, I am really looking after other people much more than myself. That creates a really interesting place for creativity - but, it's actually nice.

PC: I know your last album was heavily influenced by your new role as a mom.


ME: Well, that wasn't an album for you, per se - that was directed at a mindset; it was a lullabies record for mothers.

PC: How did that all come about?

ME: Well, I actually started a charity when I got pregnant with Victoria, and, now, it's 1200 people and it's a big not-for-profit. We've built a really, really beautiful community downtown.

PC: Tell me about its purpose.

ME: It's called the Bowery Babes. It started as this little mothers group with 12 people, 35 people, 75 people, 125 people - then, it just kept growing!

PC: Wow.

ME: Now, it's at 1200 and it has this huge website (here). It's just for my neighborhood - downtown Manhattan. It was just for moms to talk. But, one day, two years in, someone's kid died. Then, someone else couldn't have a baby. Then, someone else's husband killed himself. Then, this one is depressed and this one is divorced and this one's husband is unfaithful - and, I'm like, "Holy cow!" The things that go on in life - I just felt like I had a chance to see the people's lives from a different perspective and tried making it all about bringing goodness to their babies - our babies. Whatever sort of vulnerability I saw, I just fell in deep, deep respect for people trying to have children - or, in the process of having children - and all of the things that they wrestle with.

PC: And that album is the ultimate expression of that, too.

ME: I wanted to make a lullabies record that also, while the mom is sitting there, there is a sympathetic voice - and some groovy rhythms keeping the mom rolling along a little, too.

PC: Music to rock by more than rock to.

ME: [Laughs.] Yeah. I mean, I hope I've explained it clearly. I directed that record to the other side of my psyche that I would not say, per se, is the Broadway psyche, you know? But, still, a lot of people could relate to it. It's just a different psyche. I almost went down a rabbit hole for a while, as it were - and I am there still and always will be there, as a mom. But, I'll never forget that I was Raul's girl in SUNDAY - as you remember me - and I am now trying to put those two people I am together into one person.

PC: How fascinating.

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MoreME: Yeah, so, now, with the Bowery Babes, we even have a huge space. We have a special needs group, too, and a space for them to meet. Wherever I have felt we weren't helping or being inclusive - people with autistic children; divorced women; people with addiction - we have different ways now of addressing that and making people feel that there is a place to talk. It's funny, because I didn't expect to turn out to be this type of person, you know?

PC: In what way?

ME: Well, I wanted to be a Broadway star and then I wanted to be a mom. And, I just wanted some company - and, boy, did I get company! And company! And company! [Laughs.]

PC: To quote Sondheim.


ME: Well, it's quite different from that type of company! I mean, I only started the group for fun - and, you know, life isn't fun.

PC: It's unpredictable.


ME: Definitely unpredictable. It's wonderful, in a way, that I have been able to keep responding with the group. You know, "Let's work on story time. Let's have a Christmas show. Let's have the best Halloween party in the world."

PC: You let something new in your life - to quote the Bergmans on a song from your new album, LEGRAND AFFAIR.


ME: It's so funny you should mention that, but, one of the reasons I didn't release this album when I recorded it - I did it right after DRACULA - I recorded it with Michel, and he was responding to the tone of my voice and our relationship and the AMOUR relationship. He understood that I was very much in line with him as far as taste.

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MorePC: And he wrote a number of new songs specifically for you and your voice when AMOUR was in previews on Broadway, as well.

ME: Right. That's what started happening - Gerry Shoenfeld and the producers were getting feedback that I should sing more; that it was a good match of music and performer. Even though I was the female lead, they still wanted more singing. So, Michel was writing me material through previews, which bonded us - it put us in little hallways and secret rooms together, practicing.

PC: How cool is that!


ME: I actually wrote an essay called MUSINGS...

PC: I wish the whole thing could have been included in the CD booklet. It gives so much rich insight into this album.

ME: Well, it is included in the booklet - but, it's only the first part of it.

PC: It's the Cliff's Notes.


ME: That was actually Richard Jay's decision - he said that to flesh out the whole process for people was not ideal; let them decide what it means.

PC: Allow it more mystery.

ME: Yeah, because, really, what I establish in the booklet is that when Michel and I were together imagining an album, we agreed on the songs and we had a magical week of exploring his music - and this was before I had kids - where I could trigger his memories and his recollections and his collaborations and his good memories, bad memories, failures and successes. So, I let him unravel his whole mind in front of me for a week. And, then, we talked about all our favorite records - and we had the same taste; which was Shirley Horne and Joni Mitchell and all of that. So, we aligned in a lot of ways and he decided it had to be this big, symphonic album. So, I made it that summer and the weekend I got home from Belgium I conceived Victoria.

PC: Talk about a concept album!

ME: Yeah! The doctor made us go back and figure it out and it was the weekend we came home from this incredible experience. So, as the record has still been in my life, I got pregnant and had a child and started this mother's group - all of these stories in my life - and, then, the process of having more children - I could not release the record because I kept changing too much. The record is so, for me, mystical - the songs are mystical. Things like "I Was Born In Love With You" is from WUTHERING HEIGHTS - it's the theme from the movie, WUTHERING HEIGHTS - it doesn't get more mystical than that.

PC: How do you see the song yourself? It's quite enigmatic - and magical.


ME: Well, it doesn't get more mystical than "I Was Born In Love With You"! It's about this woman who is about to give birth to someone else's child, and, then, she has this mysterious meeting with Heathcliffe, who she has always loved, and, the moment he leaves her, the next day she dies. And, then, he is dying - later is his life - and, while he is dying, he is having visions of her - they were children together. So, this whole mystical idea of always loving someone, ever since you were basically born, and, knowing you were going to love them and meet them in death - these are, like, huge ideas! And, I was going through life and death in my own life and the record was so big that I kept changing and I kept sort of feeling the record and I just couldn't finish it - because I wanted to do it again or deepen something in the performance every time.

PC: Make the journey richer.


Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MoreME: Yeah. Ironically, I sang the record a few times, and, then, after the twins were born and just when I was getting cast in WHITE CHRISTMAS - and I am so grateful to Walter Bobbie and Rob Berman and everyone involved for that; I sent them all the Legrand CD already, because that period of being given WHITE CHRISTMAS and being given back my dream of being and loving being in the theatre - that was a time where Richard Jay came in my life again and he said, "Let's do the album again in one take; two takes - in and out in two days. Just feel it. You are mature, you have been through sh*t and back and, now, you are happy, beautiful, humble and let's just do this from our hearts and not pick away and auto-tune and fiddle - just do it." And, that's exactly what we did.

PC: Wow. So you completely reinvented it and rerecorded it?


ME: Yes. And, it's very bold.

PC: What was it like to do it all again as one grand, final take?

ME: I was very relaxed because I did it in Richard's company. Phil Ramone has produced the whole record, but for those two days I was just alone with Richard. You know, he has known me since I was 18. I just did it like he asked me to do. I didn't bring a lot of my perfectionist, technique-y person to the room. I mean, those songs just really haunted me and I just couldn't let the thing go. I needed someone to say "It's done," and take that snapshot of that evolution and maturity and let me move on from it.

PC: And, he allowed you that.

ME: He did.

PC: So, what on the album remains from the original vocal takes you did five years ago with Michel?


ME: Out of everything you have and what the public is getting - the only old is that duet with Michel and I.

PC: A wonderful moment.


ME: Yes, I sort of imitate him and get all French - because he goes, [French Accent.] "Once upon a summertime," and, then, I copy him for just a minute. In good fun! [Laughs.]

PC: Good imitation!


ME: [Laughs.] All that chemistry we had in that moment we just had to keep, you know?

PC: Actually, I was curious to know if you were you familiar with his solo English album, LEGRAND SINGS LEGRAND?

ME: Well, that's the thing - no matter what anyone thinks about his singing, he likes to sing! [Laughs.]

PC: How diplomatic is that!

ME: He enjoys expressing himself in his own music - you know, the chanson.

PC: And who can blame him?


ME: Exactly. So, that duet ["Once Upon A Summertime"] and the final song, "Celui la", are the old recordings. I don't explain this in the booklet - because Richard wanted people to do their own research about it if they are interested; but you can give it away: that is the song Michel wrote the day he heard President Kennedy was shot.

PC: Yes. What does that song represent, in your opinion?


ME: Well, it's a song that really shows Michel's code of honor and what he values - and, how he feels that people of value are not valued in this world. And, it's about how much hope was pinned on one man and how coldly that came to an end.

PC: How powerful. The message is just as pertinent now, as well - if not more so.

ME: I didn't include it for political reasons, but I think it is very appropriate to have a song about someone so honorable. The country really lost a lot of hope after that.

PC: Do you enjoy singing in other languages like you do on that song?


ME: No. C'mon, Pat - you know I'm a Yale-y. [Laughs.] I'm an art history nerd and I'm a Yale-y. The actual French language I studied all the way through Yale, so I have a feel for it - but, I am not sure what a French person would say! It doesn't bring me terror, though. If I were to go up on my lines in a French song live, though, that might become my new recurring theatre nightmare. [Laughs.]

PC: That's so funny.

ME: Thanks a lot, Pat, you just gave me my new musical theatre nightmare! [Laughs.]

PC: Wait - what was the old one?

ME: I have had a recurring dream since I was very little that I am in a play and I am wearing a costume and I look around and I am in BRIGADOON - I guess I put it all together because of the kilts. And, I don't know BRIGADOON - I don't know the plot; I don't know anything! And, last year, when I got asked to do it with Jason Daniely and Christine Ebersole, I just said yes - if only because it's been one of those things that gives me almost a fearful flush in my face. When I used to hear the title BRIGADOON, it used to make me sick, and, now, it's like my favorite show. [Laughs.]

PC: Time weaves a strange web.


ME: Yeah. I overcame it. I guess I just had to deal with it.

PC: Christine Ebersole has done this column, as well. What was it like working with her?


ME: Aww, she is so great! I don't think she had ever heard of me or had ever seen me in anything - she was just great and funny and wonderful. She's another one that I am obsessed with - I love her. I am obsessed with her vocal technique. Oh, my God - GREY GARDENS!

PC: Are you a big fan?

ME: Ugh, I might just die if I talk about it! I'll have to be resuscitated. [Laughs.] Seriously, though, she is the most witty, crazy actress in the world. I remember when I saw her in GREY GARDENS with my husband I kept saying, "Look! Look! Look! She is the sh*t!"

PC: You can say that again.


ME: I was like, "I am just making you aware we are in the presence of greatness!" It was just... unreal. So, when I get BRIGADOON and I find out that she is in it, I was totally thrilled. So, then, we have the show - but, it is one night only! But, I was so happy to work with her.

PC: What were rehearsals like for a one-off like that?

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MoreME: Just one day. We had such a great rehearsal day. It was so great and, then, Christine said, "Do you want to go to dinner - just us?" And, I said, "Oh, my God! I would love to!" So, I went out to dinner with her and we both talked so much we lost track of time and we missed half-hour! We completely missed half-hour - we were so late we only had like ten minutes until show.

PC: The two stars of the show, no less. Backstage bedlam.

ME: Yeah, they were totally freaking out! I mean, the two stars are off at some Italian restaurant jibber-jabbering. To this very day, I remember racing up the steps of the Shubert Theater being not ready at all - I had a hair person who was doing extensions and curls and stuff. I remember her face when I walked in - she was like, [Screams Through Teeth.] "OK! Are you ready now?"

PC: But, it worked out quite well in the end, at least.

ME: It definitely did. After the show, Christine Ebersole came into my room and said, "I think you have quite a future."

PC: What a seal of approval!

ME: Isn't that so cool? You've gotta make sure you print that! I can't believe she said that to me. [Big Laugh.]

PC: Not a problem!
Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & More

ME: I really believed that I was going to be dead for the next hundred years after that - I thought I'd fade into the mists or something. I was really a fairy for a day that day.

PC: The orchestration for "Windmills Of Your Mind" on LEGRAND AFFAIR has a Henry Mancini vibe that I really dug.

ME: Well, you know, I told Michel how I wanted that one - that one came out of my head.

PC: It moves from a bossa nova to a 60s swing sound into Mancini-esque territory so seamlessly.


ME: Everything that Michel has ever thought of in his life and every person that he has ever been somehow dances through this record. Everything.

PC: It's also one of his most famous songs - maybe the most.


ME: My interpretation of "Windmills Of Your Mind", sadly, stems from a period in my life where I struggled with insomnia. I don't have that problem anymore, fortunately. Anyway, I don't have that whole singer thing anymore - that sense where everything has to be right for me to be able to work. Not anymore.

PC: John Leguizamo told me to do his solo show he had a whole routine where he had to be very, very disciplined and not drink caffeine or alcohol and barely even speak to do his show.


ME: Well, discipline is different than crazy, though - and everyone has their own range of discipline. It's a fine, fine line is what I found out. Everything can't be planned in a performance, but you need to be able physically recover the next day, too. It's a balancing act. When I spoke to Michel about "Windmills", I asked him if we could orchestrate it like tossing and turning. It's about how awful the tossing and turning is when you can't sleep. You know, we all need rest. Now that I am a mom, the first thing I have to teach my kids is about how important rest is. That's not necessarily something I used to focus on.

PC: Were you very aware of Legrand growing up?


ME: My dad would play a lot of these songs when I was little - he was a concert pianist.

PC: What about "The Summer Knows" and some of his hits?

ME: Well, we didn't listen to radio much. The house was always filled with music, just not the radio very much.

PC: Were you familiar with his films with Jaques Demy like THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG?


ME: I was. You know, you may find this interesting: Michel actually says that, even though his father is credited with the orchestrations for IRMA LA DOUCE, he actually did them.

PC: Indeed that is. You knew THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT, too?

ME: Of course I've seen that. I've seen THE SUMMER OF '42 and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, too. I also love THE SIX DAYS OF JUNE, which is a film Michel directed. It's really interesting and it's a true story from Michel's life.

PC: The Barbra Streisand recording of "The Summer Knows" is the gold standard as far as that song is concerned, so did you feel any particular pressure going up against that?


ME: I think that since it was being originally orchestrated for me, I didn't feel the terrible burden of being compared - partially because Michel went out of his way to not do any songs that he felt were associated with Barbra. He would say, "No. This is Barbra's."

PC: What were some songs that you wanted to do that he said no to?

ME: "The Way He Makes Me Feel" - he wouldn't let me do it.

PC: What others?


ME: "A Piece Of Sky". "Papa, Can You Hear Me." His perception was that it would damage the individuality of this album.

PC: Tell me about "Once Upon A Summertime" and if you think it has any relation to "The Summer Knows"?


ME: That's the first song Michel ever wrote - he was like 17. It was a French song and Blossom Dearie heard it on French radio and she called her friend Johnny Mercer - who was old, but still going - and, she told Johnny to call Michel and to write American lyrics for it. And, he did.

PC: And Mercer wrote lyrics for many of Henry Mancini's themes, as well.

ME: There you go! What a connection. I think it is a sort of a little more Parisienne-sounding - it's this young man creating memories of love affairs. I think "The Summer Knows" is when he was a big Hollywood composer writing for this hugely successful film. So, it's hard to compare.

PC: And, coming from HIGH SOCIETY, Porter wrote so many famous songs about Paris - did you two speak about Porter?

ME: No. But, since I had just finished FINIAN'S RAINBOW, we would do "How Are Things In Glocca Morra" or "Almost Like Being In Love". I don't think he liked CAMELOT a lot, though. What you may find most interesting is that Michel has a real, shocking respect for Sondheim, most of all.

PC: How interesting. I wonder what Sondheim thinks of Legrand?


ME: Me, too!

PC: Legrand's melodies are as potent as many of Sondheim's finest lyrics - some Legrand songs are melody alone, as you know.

ME: Yes, yes, yes.

PC: I think "His Eyes, Her Eyes" is my favorite moment on the album - what can you tell me about your recording of it?


ME: Yeah, some people are pulling that out as the single or whatever.

PC: Rightfully so.

ME: "His Eyes, Her Eyes" is from THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR and I have heard about this song since I was very young. I remember my dad saying, "It's from a movie, but I can't tell you what's going on in it!"

PC: Too suggestive.


ME: What's going on, of course, is the two of them playing chess. It's the police woman and the thief and they both know their roles and they are competing and dealing with all the sexual tension - in addition to being on opposite sides of the law. It's very erotic. So, that was the task set out to Michel and the Bergmans when they wrote it. But, they end up not finishing the game... [Laughs.] that's what it's about.

PC: Did you consider doing it as a duet at any point?

ME: We did, but since the whole CD is a duet with me and Michel, it didn't feel right for the album - but, we did test it as a duet. So, instead, solo, I just play it from a certain perspective that's explaining about and informing about him and her and what's going on. I am neither him nor her - I am speaking from the outside.

PC: Omniscient.


ME: Yes, and, in "The Summer Knows", the Summer herself is omniscient - she says "Go for it!" - even if you a 38-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy like in the movie.

PC: What does "The Summer Knows" mean beyond that, do you think?

ME: It's another omniscient, erotic song. It's another poem. This omniscient force of a season and how the season allows you to do things. The ending - "it's time to dress for Fall" - it just hurts. It hurts. It hurts us all. I've had that happen to me - when a summer romance must end. It just has to end. The Summer can also be the Summer of your life - it doesn't have to be the season. It's the heat and the warmth and the song of the sand and your willingness to let it happen.

PC: Given that LEGRAND AFFAIR is a concept album ostensibly about conception, it seems clear that romance is the pervasive theme.


ME: Well, you are the first person I am speaking to about it, so this could not be more interesting for me right now. This has been so helpful because you really understand it. You are so right, though: there is a theme of eros and willingness and giving over to something - even if it's sadness, like in "Dis Moi".

PC: The only other French-sung song on the album.


ME: Yes. Just to decode it: It's from the perspective of a woman that has children. She has a lover - and, in the same way as Anna KarenINA - and she has to give up her family to be with him. It comes from an actress who was in a famous French film, BONJOUR TRISTESSE, and she wrote the lyrics. She's saying, "Don't you understand what I gave up? I gave up everything!" She is so desperate. Everything that she thought was respectable, she threw away. She's not just some tart. It's an agonizing. It's not neurotic, but it's about having that lack of control - like we spoke about earlier.

PC: The sequencing of the album seems intentional in painting a full picture of a romance. Is there a story told?

ME: I think that there is no better sequencing we could have done. There are Bergmans songs early and late and there are thematic chapters within the album - there are clear emotional chapters. You see her beginning attractions and then her gains and losses. There is a poem called "Keeping Quiet" by Neruda - and, there is a thought in that poem that is really important to me: "Perhaps the earth can teach us, as when everything seems dead and proves to be alive."

PC: A period of renewal and rebirth.

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & MoreME: Yeah. That's "You Must Believe In Spring". The road looks wintry, but you still have to believe in spring anyway. The rose seems to be dead, but it's actually not. All of us die and are born again all of the time. A lot of us sometimes have to remember that the sun is going to shine again - whatever that sun is to you. Children have enhanced that for me in my own life. "There's Something New In My Life" is obviously the most happy song on the album. When he was working on it, Michel wrote in the corner of the margins, "Mozart meets folk". And, I think that's how he sees me: Judy Collins. Long hair, my hippie thoughts, yoga - I think that's how he sees me; in that light.

PC: What kind of yoga do you practice? I do Ashtanga myself.


ME: Yoga. I do Bari yoga. Ashtanga? You have to be a killer! [Laughs.]

PC: Whatever you are doing is working.


ME: [Laughs.] Thank you. But, back to your question: "Something New In My Life" is that kind of folky side, and, I think, it is Michel tipping his hat to me and the BLUE LIKE THAT girl and the LULLABIES girl that I used to be.

PC: What can you tell me about the song "Martina"?


ME: "Martina" is a really sad song that was originally a Streisand song. It's, again, one of those things where it's about a fragile perspective.

PC: "In Another Life"?

ME: "In Another Life" is a song Michel and the Bergmans wrote for me for this album. It's about that, in another life, we would never have to say goodbye. If things were different we could be together forever. It's one of those things where if just a few things were different it could have worked out - but, it didn't.

PC: The centermost letters in life spell if, after all.


ME: Oh, I have to tell you this story: one day Michel was at my house and we were playing through "You Must Believe In Spring" - the song we talked about in relation to Neruda and the ideas of rebirth in that song - and he called the Bergmans from my house and said, [Thick Accent.], "Marilyn, this is Michel. I think 'You Must Believe In Spring' is too short," - it's one of their hits for 35 years - and, he goes, "I want another verse. It has to be longer." So, they wrote an entire new verse for the album.

PC: Which one?

ME: "When angry voices drown / The music of the spheres..."

PC: Gorgeous lines.

ME: That verse is definitely post-9/11 - I mean, "When children see a world that's far beyond their years?"

PC: And the Shakespearean "music of the spheres," too.

ME: Yeah. They are talking about us living in a world where we have to believe in hope.

PC: What does "Maybe SomeOne Dreamed Us" mean to you?

ME: Well, no one has ever recorded that one before. I am the first.

PC: Lucky you. What a beautiful song.


ME: Yes, what a beautiful song. It's about how we're all connected - it's like yoga; it's like Buddha; no one is better than anyone else. No one is a star. The first line is about how we are all links in a chain.

PC: I have to ask: "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?"

ME: {Laughs.] Well, the Bergmans were given this task of writing this song that could be sung at the beginning of a relationship and at the end. I remember hearing that story and saying, "I'm going to do the end, then." [Laughs.]

PC: The one on your album is a little more optimistic than other versions.

ME: Yeah, the one on the album is the beginning of the relationship, I think. I chose something more optimistic. I don't think that was the side of me Michel was drawn to - the ending side. That's what this album is really about to me, anyway: why did my compositional idol want me to do this? People are always asking: what is the goal? I say that it is, "I always want to be true to him." It's not just that I'm doing his songs - I could just be some girl singing his songs - but, I did this album with him. I felt a real love for him - a caring. I don't know why he did this for me, but I know I did this for him. It is a real duet.

PC: And a labor of love that actually gave birth to something beautiful - in more ways than one.


ME: [Laughs.] Well, it might just be a coincidence - but, from my perspective, it was so magical to have this big orchestral thing happening in the back of my mind and in the back of my closet as I was experiencing these really great blessings. It's just so incredible to see new human beings come into the world - their smiling and their crying and everything else.

PC: And through LEGRAND AFFAIR you are breathing new life to Michel's musical children.


ME: There is the whole everything-old-is-new-again thing going on and I really hope that I can make people who don't remember or don't know this music fall in love with it all over again. I just think that, with a live orchestra and a particular dress...

PC: That's your vision?


ME: Well, I definitely have a dress in mind... [Laughs.]

PC: Speaking of which, I have to ask since you looked so ravishing: what did you wear to the Sondheim Treasure Hunt?

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & More
ME: Oh, that was this beautiful Max Azria.

PC: And the cover shot dress of LEGRAND AFFAIR is Prada, correct?

ME: Yes! Yes. I never thought I would sound so superficial. [Laughs.] But, I do have this certain dress in mind and this vision of me in it and singing with a live orchestra. You know, I don't think a lot of people of the new generation coming up know what real romance can be.

PC: The 60s are certainly back in a major way thanks to MAD MEN and its ilk.

ME: This album is definitely very 60s, obviously. It's very romantic and sincere - everyone is so cynical these days and this is very special and alluring. Michel has always been very alluring to me because he seems like he comes from a different world.

PC: A more magical one. Moving to today: what do you think of GLEE?


ME: Oh, I think GLEE is just great. I mean, I was a theatre nerd - this tall girl who did plays with these nerdy guys. I was friends with everyone, but I never remember not being in the school play. It was a commitment I had in my bones. So, now, people can see that onscreen. If GLEE was around when I was young, I would have found my people, for sure! Instead, I saw my first Broadway show - ON YOUR TOES - and it was my twelfth birthday and I was bawling! [Laughs.]

PC: What was wrong?

ME: I was like, "Who are all these people? How did they get up there?" I didn't understand. I mean, since then, Donald Saddler danced with me at my wedding and was my whole choreographer for that! [Laughs.]

PC: That's full-circle - to say
the very least!

ME: Yes, we were great emotional friends. But, back to your question: you see, if GLEE was around, I would have had a show to love every week and I would understand how it all works.

PC: They recently did a Legrand song on the show, too - "Papa, Can You Hear Me". Performed by another Richard Jay discovery - Lea Michele!


ME: Oh, they did? She did? How great! That's such a great song. I hope they do more Legrand. You know, you can just trip out with the music and lyrics of Michel and the Bergmans - it's not a specific character always. It's a mood.

PC: I think Sade would do well with his songs for that exact reason.

ME: Yeah! That's a really great idea.

PC: What can you tell me about your new film PATRIMONY?

ME: PATRIMONY is a film that premiered at the Boston Film Festival and it won a bunch of awards a little while ago. And, now, I am on A GIFTED MAN for a little bit.

PC: A GIFTED MAN currently features Raul Esparza, by the way.

ME: Yes, I know! I think his arc might be done, though. I am not going to be on it forever, but I am the lead character with John Benjamin Hickey on the episode we do.

PC: John recently did this column, by the way. What a smart and talented guy he is.

ME: Oh, yeah! That's so cool that he did this, too. Actually, he was there with me on Monday and saw me doing "Not Getting Married Today" and he was right there in the front row just howling, having a great time and being a great audience member. And, now, we are going to do the flipside on this GIFTED MAN episode to say the very least!

PC: I can't wait to see you do some darker stuff, then! What a year he is having, right?

ME: Oh, I know! He deserves it. He deserves it.

PC: And you deserve all the success you are having. I can't wait to see what you do next and let me be the first to congratulate you on the flawless work you have done on this new album. It's simply terrific.

ME: Thank you so much for saying so, Pat. This was amazing.

PC: One last thing: how did you first meet Richard Jay-Alexander?

ME: I was a freshman at Yale and I didn't have an agent. I was 18. I used to get Backstage newspaper and I used to circle all the auditions and I remember I circled the audition for the Ringling Brothers Circus. I had some weird vision of me joining the circus - but, I was 18. [Laughs.]

PC: Talk about sending in the clowns...

ME: [Laughs.] I remember that for my audition for a show in Rhode Island, I went in in short-shorts, tap shoes, curly hair - remember, I was obsessed with Bernadette Peters and that was my look. So, Richard saw me in the hall in tap shoes and he opened the door and asked the guy I was auditioning for if he could see me when I was done in there. So, I changed my shoes and auditioned for Cosette [in LES MIZ]. And, he gave me the job ten days later and I tried talking him out of it! I didn't think I did it well enough. I remember saying, "But, my High C wasn't that good!" And, he said, "You should hear some of the things that they have cast!" [Laughs.] I will always remember that.

PC: Are you looking forward to the forthcoming 3D film version of LES MIZ?


ME: Well, I wish I could get an audition! [Laughs.] When I finally heard about it, there was some talk about me going in, but it was way too late to get me on a plane, I guess! But, I will be very curious to see it because LES MIZ is part of the fabric of my life. Actually, Richard Jay wanted me to do the Hollywood Bowl thing, too, but I was pregnant with the twins at the time.

PC: Will you be doing a concert in New York to celebrate this new album?


ME: Yes, we will be doing a show in November at Joe's Pub, but I think we are keeping it a secret until the album is released. The secret will be out soon, though!

PC: You are phenomenal and so was this, Melissa. Thank you so very much.

ME: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Pat. This was so fantastic. Bye bye.

Exclusive InDepth InterView: Melissa Errico & LEGRAND AFFAIR; DRACULA To SUNDAY IN THE PARK... & More

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Pat Cerasaro Pat Cerasaro is BroadwayWorld's Chief Interviewer and Senior Editor, contributing exclusive columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Flash Fridays as well as additional special features and extensive news coverage. His work for the site has appeared in The New York Times, US Weekly, The Biography Channel, NBC and more.


 

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