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BWW Review: Conjuring Cabaret's Heyday, Andrea Marcovicci Warmly Shares Some of Her Favorite Songs at Feinstein's/54 Below

These are timeless: Manners, elegance, wit, sincerity, lively intelligence; the ability to make it feel as if a vocalist inhabits a lyric, and as if she/he sees and is singing to you.

Andrea Marcovicci, who brightened the heyday of stylish cabaret, remains undiminished in these qualities. Those who shone when the city was filled with sophisticated boites/clubs, and all fine hotels had cabaret rooms, tend to make the rest of the world look shabbier today.

With deft MD/pianist Christopher Denny subbing for Shelly Markham and the talented Jered Egan on bass, Marcovicci takes the stage at Feinstein's/54 Below (on November 18 & 19) glamorous and game. Tonight is about favorite songs, about reflection. If you've followed this musical storyteller, you're likely to reminisce. Some of these numbers conjure specific shows, while others recall classic rooms that have passed on. They emerge like old friends and are welcome.

"Let's Get Lost" (Jimmy McHugh) evidences extended vibrato, perhaps not as steady as it was in the day, but full of feeling. "Slow Boat To China" (Frank Loesser), riding Egan's rhythmic bass and Denny's jaunty illumination, breezes in with a twinkle in the vocalist's eye as if challenging her date to follow. Marcovicci slides gracefully down to her haunches, gown and all, tempting those up front.

"On Such A Night As This" (Hugh Martin/Marshall Barer) and "Let's Not Talk About Love" (Cole Porter) are numbers I, for one, will always link to this performer. Droll phrasing (remember that adjective?) is impeccable as is enunciation, even with the tongue-twisting lyrics of the latter.

Though a tremendously tender "Two For the Road" is prefaced by the story of meeting her now ex-husband, it becomes a serenade to daughter Alice, whose photo Marcovicci proudly embraces. Economic ballads are some of the best here: A wistful "It Was Not Exactly Paris" (Michael Leonard/Russell George) alights like a melodic sigh, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (Jerome Kern) originates full-phrased, then dissipates as if exhaled rings, "These Foolish Things" (Eric Maschwitz/Jack Strachey/Harry Link) is late night dancey; slow, close, accustomed. At the lyric seven francs a kilo, Marcovicci looks up, holding herself, as if seeing the scenario.

The highlight of the evening is Shelly Markham's original arrangement of the iconic "Black Magic" (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer.) "I want to bring out the mystery, the haunted nature of the song," Marcovicci told her collaborator. The outcome is like a snake rising slowly from his basket--languid, hypnotized. Denny's piano is undulating, witchy. Terrific.

More contemporary, iconoclastic choices include Pink's "Glitter In The Air" which, smart and poetic soars like a low flying kite, and David Yazbeck's splendid "What Was a Woman To Do" (from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels): A man no woman could refuse . . . Magically long of lash/Tragically short of cash . . . His teeth were clean and straight and/white just like a picket fence/I couldn't look directly at them/They were that intense . . . during which the artist wryly flirts with the gigolo fluttering a fan.

"My Sugar Is So Refined" (Sidney Lippman/Sylvia Dee) in a similar humorous vein, was recorded in 1946 by Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers: She says "tomahto" instead of "tomayto"/She says "potahto" instead of "potayto"/And you should see how She holds a cup of tea/With just two fingers while She sticks out three . . . Nifty and on target-no camp here.

The evening closes with Marcovicci's wish for us, "The Sweetest of Nights and The Finest of Days" (Shelly Markham/ Judith Viorst), lovely, genuine sentiments.

Christopher Denny's sensitive, nimble accompaniment is just right. Jered Egan delivers a reliably adroit contribution.

Photos by Maryann Lopinto

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From This Author Alix Cohen