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Review: MELISSA ERRICO SINGS HER NEW YORK Is a Love Letter at 54 Below

Melissa Errico Celebrates Her Life in the Big Apple

Review: MELISSA ERRICO SINGS HER NEW YORK Is a Love Letter at 54 Below
Photo by Helane Blumfield

Sometime in May of this year, I started writing for Broadway World. The first review I did of a virtual event (remember virtual events?) was a review of IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE: MYSTERY which featured Melissa Errico, Adam Gopnik, and Tedd Firth at the piano. In a wonderfully full-circle moment, here we are 6 months and some 85 reviews later sitting live and in person at 54 Below watching Melissa Errico with Tedd Firth at the piano, with literary quotes by Adam Gopnik.

In this case, the opus is Melissa Errico's new show, Melissa Errico SINGS HER NEW YORK, which was having its second performance at 54 Below. At its heart, it is not a show about New York, or songs about New York, although both of those things are prominently featured. Rather it is about one woman's lifelong experience of New York City, with all of the dreams, obsessions, joys, heartbreaks, terror, and rapture that come with living, working, and loving in the world's most exciting and most irritating city. It is about a woman who made the short journey from Long Island with nothing but some dance shoes, a voice, and a dream and acquired a home, friends, a career, a husband, and a family, along with a journal full of memories and experiences. In short, a life.

All of it is peppered with literary quotes from some of New York's most successful sons and daughters including Moss Hart, John Updike, Adam Gopnik, Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, and Laura Nyro. It is as much a valentine to this city as any Woody Allen film with half the neurosis. All of it is filtered through Melissa Errico's passionate and somewhat erudite point of view. She is a woman who loves books and quotes them freely. If it sounds like she is frequently the smartest person in the room, that's because it's absolutely true.

She began her show with a song that is the anthem of all us dreamers who came of age in the 70s, "The Music and the Mirror. She took time during the instrumental breaks to tell us about taking the train into the city as a young woman and never wanting to leave. She talked about dance class and discovering her Broadway dreams in the audience of On Your Toes, singing Rodgers and Hart's title song from the show. She wondered what would some of the most famous songs about New York have sounded like if they had been written in the time of Covid. Adam Gopnik provided new specialty lyrics to "Manhattan," "I Happen to Like New York," and "New York, New York" to demonstrate this alternate universe concept. She then sang that Queen Mother of all songs about NYC isolation, Sondheim's "Another Hundred People." She took the song at a dizzying tempo that only Tedd Firth could have kept up with.

And can we pause for a moment to talk about how great Tedd Firth is? He can improvise solos in any style that sound unlike anyone else and yet are completely part of the fabric of the tune. It is a very special one-of-a-kind alchemy. He proved his worth in a section about Errico's Aunt Rose, who was not only a bona fide Ziegfeld showgirl, she ended up in the company of the original Show Boat. Errico donned a white feather boa that had a life of its own and ripped through a very sultry version of "Life Upon the Wicked Stage." Tedd Firth's solo in the middle of it was a wondrous thing that completely matched the vaudeville cakewalk of the tune. She wrapped up this section on her saucy aunt with Schwartz & Dietz's wryly funny "Confession.

Review: MELISSA ERRICO SINGS HER NEW YORK Is a Love Letter at 54 Below
Photo by Helane Blumfield

She gave a performance worthy of the Oak Room with "I Wished on the Moon" with a lyric by the cynical sage of the Algonquin, Dorothy Parker. She talked about finding the first apartment she ever lived in alone, using Joni Mitchell's exuberant "Chelsea Morning" to describe the freedom living alone can bring. But with freedom comes loneliness and heartbreak, which she laid out in a new song by Georgia Stitt and Marcy Heisler, "The Wanting of You." She described the conundrum of every young New Yorker who can't decide which direction to go in a performance of Sondheim's "Uptown, Downtown" that was so good it makes you wonder why they cut it from Follies. The triple rhyme on "She thinks of the Ritz. Oh, it's so schizo" is delicious.

She started Leonard Bernstein's beautiful "Lonely Town" and in the middle of the tune, she welcomed her special guest Max von Essen to make it a glorious duet. They rounded it out with another hit song by Comden & Green, "Make Someone Happy." She talked about dancing at her wedding with the great choreographer Donald Sadler. She recreated that moment with "The Way You Look Tonight." She told stories about having her children in Judy Collins' "Since Love Asked" and Laura Nyro's transcendent "To a Child." For this number, she invited another special guest percussionist Caroline Moore. Errico set the number in a yoga class for a group of expectant mothers. Moore's wind chimes and cymbals and timbales set the perfect meditative mood. It was a maternal and thoughtful ending to a story, that's still in progress. And Melissa Errico topped it off with an encore of NYC's official jazz standard, Vernon's Duke's "Autumn in New York." Melissa Errico SINGS HER NEW YORK is 75 minutes that is clever, passionate, witty, touching, romantic, and complex. Just like the city that inspired it.

Review: MELISSA ERRICO SINGS HER NEW YORK Is a Love Letter at 54 Below
Photo by Helane Blumfield

For more information about Melissa Errico, visit melissaerrico.com or follow her @melissa_errico on Twitter or @melissa_errico_fairymom on Instagram. For more great acts at 54 below, check out 54below.com.

BREAKING NEWS: MELISSA ERRICO HAS ADDED A SHOW! NOVEMBER 21 HERE!



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Ricky Pope is a very busy actor/musical director/vocal coach who has toured the country with the national tours of ANNIE, ALL SHOOK UP AND TITANIC. He has worked in regional theatres in 49 states i... (read more about this author)


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