Review: A MANHATTAN VALENTINE: Melissa Errico Makes the City Sweet... at Birdland through this weekend

Love songs, some by Sondheim, many city-centric

By: Feb. 21, 2024
Review: A MANHATTAN VALENTINE: Melissa Errico Makes the City Sweet... at Birdland through this weekend
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You cabaret-hungry perusers of BroadwayWorld’s cabaret section have already had a taste of Melissa Errico’s show via the photos by our reliable man with the camera, Conor Weiss – but those of us who were there in person before the two-show-Sunday end of the run (or is it “reign”?) at Birdland got the full visual and aural banquet plus getting to taste the wrapped candies kindly placed on the tables.  After all, it was the week of Valentine’s Day.  And the show’s timely nods to romance and being in love with NYC,  A Manhattan Valentine, was pretty delicious, too.Review: A MANHATTAN VALENTINE: Melissa Errico Makes the City Sweet... at Birdland through this weekend

Longtime fans knowing Miss Errico’s own tastes and some facts about her life and career wouldn’t be surprised at her song choices, given her options to choose from that can make the set list vary from night to night. Her brand new album is called Sondheim in the City, and she had released a previous collection of Stephen Sondheim songs and played roles in shows he scored, so we could expect (and got) plenty from his rich songbook. The night I attended began by name-dropping the venue into her Valentine, with “Lullaby of Birdland” and ended with something tenderly dedicated to her husband, Patrick McEnroe, who was in the house.  It was “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” with its lyric about maintaining a long-term relationship, by Marilyn and Alan Bergman and passionate music by Michel Legrand.  The composer is another man of music close to this singer’s valentine heart, as she got to star on Broadway in Amour, singing his melodies (many of which are also in her oeuvre of recording projects).  There was another Legrand/Bergmans moment when unannounced guest singer from France, the elegant and smiling Isabelle Georges, joined the party for one of three duets, when “You Must Believe in Spring” sprang up in English and French (original French words by Jacques Demy).  It seemed to be a mutual admiration situation for the two talented chanteuses.  

Throughout, the singer delivered the needed varied moods and attitudes, in fine voice, but here and there things felt a little rushed or just slightly perfunctory where I missed her established ability to get very deep into lyrics with extra-fine shadings and nuances. Maybe more back-phrasing or looser arrangements would allow that. Some Sondheim material has such masterful architecture in its original theatre form that straying from the blueprint can be considered foolhardy or even sacrilegious.  Inventiveness came more with primo pianist Tedd Firth’s muscular meanderings during instrumental breaks, joined by his top-notch teammates, bassist David Finck and drummer Eric Halvorson.     

Review: A MANHATTAN VALENTINE: Melissa Errico Makes the City Sweet... at Birdland through this weekend Melissa Errico’s early stage role of Venus, the goddess of love, in a production of A Touch of Venus, added a nice touch to the theme of the show with “Speak Low” from its score.  Bits of whimsy and wit added to the enjoyment, some provided by brief quips and quotes from famous writers and updating the old song “How About You?” by adding a chorus that referenced modern-day diversions such as YouTube. There was also interesting Errico family history about an aunt named Rose who was in New York shows in the 1920s, including the original Show Boat.  With an audience giving back the love as Melissa Errico sang about the emotion, any day could feel pretty valentiney.  

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Find more information about Melissa Errico's album, Sondheim in the City, including how to order it, visit her website.

Find more shows at Birdland on their website.



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