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BWW Interview: Melissa Errico Performs SONDHEIM BY THE SHORE Concert at Holmdel Theatre Company 7/17

Melissa Errico comes to Holmdel Theatre Company this summer!

BWW Interview: Melissa Errico Performs SONDHEIM BY THE SHORE Concert at Holmdel Theatre Company 7/17

Tony nominee and Broadway star, Melissa Errico, will bring her "Sondheim by the Shore" concert to Holmdel Theatre Company on July 17. This show is part of the theatre's "Broadway Outside the Barn" concert series. Tony-nominated Melissa Errico starred in My Fair Lady, High Society, Amour, Dracula, Les Miserables and more. "A nonpareil cabaret artist" ("Wall Street Journal") Melissa Errico is one of the most beloved and versatile of American singers. From the sophisticated reaches of Sondheim - her album "Sondheim Sublime" was called by the WSJ "the finest Sondheim album ever recorded" - to the joyous register of Yip Harburg, she sings the American songbook with a silvery voice and the unique intelligence that has made her a regular contributor to the New York Times. She has just completed a series of three much-praised concerts at the French Institute/Alliance Francaise in New York, the last of which, "On Mystery", she is transforming into her next album, to be titled, " Out Of The Dark: The Film Noir Project."

Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview Melissa Errico before her concert.

Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to be a performer?

Yes. When I was 12 years old, I was taken to see On Your Toes on Broadway at the Virginia Theater for my birthday. I sat in the audience and just cried my eyes out. I didn't want it to end. I wanted to know how to get up there. I would've given anything to be up there, anything! I identified in a way that's still impossible to describe. It's just where I wanted to be.

Who are some of the people who have inspired your career?

Going way back to a show called Make Someone Happy at the Bay Street Theater. I was in a musical that was about Betty Condon and Adolph Green. They're the people who wrote Singing in the Rain and the musical Wonderful Town. They were so hilarious & creative! And my still-mentor and best friend Tony Walton did the costumes and sets. I had the best summer of my life. After that summer I returned with a concert and Julie Andrews came to my dressing room one time, and she wrote me a note-"You were wonderful-with love from The Other Eliza." It was amazing! I learned from these people a sheer gentleness of spirit, and a kind of grace. And a love of the English language!!

In recent years, I am rather inspired by Adam Gopnik, & my frequent collaborations with him .. he's a New Yorker magazine essayist, lyricist and writer. For the recent series at FIAF, we had such a good time. He was, as some noted in their reviews, representing the audience that wasn't there. So, I was playing to him, as he was speaking to me. It came out of an old joke of ours, that our collaboration might make a new wave French movie called "Il Parle, Elle Chante" - he speaks, she sings-- since over the years of our work together we've been exchanging roles. I write more and more and, though he doesn't sing, he does perform - even does his own one-man storytelling show. We constitute each other's audiences, even in the absence of one. Luckily, I had a chance to write about the Mystery Concert in the New York Times... and our third & most recent concert had real people! The 3-part concert series is available On Demand.

What is your favorite part about performing before a live audience?

Well, I get two of my favorite things here- live and...outdoors!! I've had some of my happiest performing experiences performing outdoors - whether to thousands of people doing Camelot at the Hollywood Bowl with Jeremy Irons or to a summer night's crowd with Michael Feinstein at the Pasadena Arboretum, I love the intersection of open air and picnic-fun and music making. Of course, the intimate cabaret arts are harder in spaces where intensity dissipates - but that's the performer's challenge.

In general I love a live audience because there's an unpredictability that begins. We start unifying as a group, and together we make a night. Recently I had two nights at the Bucks County Playhouse & I was so grateful to be singing again, and making live music. I feel like Tedd Firth, my incomparably & poetically gifted pianist, and I skipped past any hesitancy and went straight for musical flights. A live audience right now deserves passion. If they show up, I show up big time!

BWW Interview: Melissa Errico Performs SONDHEIM BY THE SHORE Concert at Holmdel Theatre Company 7/17
Melissa Errico & Ryan Silberman in CSC's Passion
Photo by Joan Marcus

What can audience members expect from your upcoming "Sondheim at the Shore'' concert at Holmdel Theatre Company?

During the pandemic itself I was drawn to poignant songs of enforced isolation and the promised hope of renewal - like Alec Wilder's beautiful "Blackberry Winter" or Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring," both of which I recorded as lock-down special releases. Now, I'm looking to set myself free & maybe a little boldly so!!! I may sing some of the more upbeat, Sondheim songs - "Everybody Says Don't!" and "Getting Married Today" "Another Hundred People," or full on swinging songs like "Sooner or Later," a romantic dip in West Side Story... even a bluesy look back at teenage Sondheim, and his protege/mentor relationship with Oscar Hammerstein (dip into a few big Broadway classics which no doubt influenced Sondheim!!).... and without a doubt, take a good ol' flirty romp with some of my favorite sparky ladies: Petra, the Bakers Wife & impetuous Dot.

What I love about Sondheim is that he asks life big questions & takes outrageous paths to answering them. I hope I can find a bold and joyful way of making his ambivalence as refreshing & startling as a summer jump in the cool mysterious ocean!

You have a very diverse career in theater, film, television, writing, and music. How important is it for you as an artist to switch things up?

Very! You forgot one thing! A holiday special. You know what I did around the holidays last December? I fell into a YouTube rabbit hole, watching 1960s TV specials? Andy Williams Christmas show excerpts: I just LOVE that stuff! When I told a friend that my Bay Street holiday concert suddenly had a new song by Andrew Lippa, family, parodies, and Paolo Szot doing a duet, she started sending me wonderful & weird nostalgic videos! I was hooked! December comes along, and days are dark- maybe darker last year than ever ...no matter what songs you are singing or hearing, we were all looking for the same thing - the light. I loved making something specific & new for the holidays. I loved that whole script & it was written just for THAT MOMENT. I'm deciding right now where to do the 2021 Holiday Special. I'm hooked.

What's important to me isn't switching genres, just for the sake of bouncing around, as much as - to always be making sure that things I CAN author - like my own solo music - are personal & never robotic. I will always care about every venue I am in & try to invent something specific for the place & time. Every concert is new. As for the world of the screen... I've also learned so much about self taping and auditions & I'm able to bring a new level of concentration to the work of pursuing new film roles, more & more of which is screened by tapes we need to make. I didn't have the tech skills I do now; and I'm making up for some lost time there. (Now, I love it!) My motto is: what's next? And I've learned, all my most vulnerable "I can't do this" days - juggling three young daughters, remember!- make good 'copy,' to quote my writing hero Norah Ephron.

BWW Interview: Melissa Errico Performs SONDHEIM BY THE SHORE Concert at Holmdel Theatre Company 7/17
Melissa Errico in Sunday in the Park with George at The Kennedy Center
Photo by Joan Marcus

What other projects are you currently working on?

One of my frequent producers, Rob Mathes, and I keep talking about the next project, after Sondheim, Legrand & the current film noir - perhaps making a 'swing' standard record. Or, yes, perhaps a holiday album. But I'd have to find a special angle, or attack, on that. I feel a special pressure to rise to the level that my closest supporters believe I can achieve, or have sometimes in the past. One of the most important relationships in my life is with an audience of intelligent admirers. Writers and listeners - friends & fans - who encourage me - whether they intend to or not! -- also put useful pressure on me not to disappoint, never to do anything that I know is ordinary or derivative or banal. I'm trying. And I'm working on a book.

Broadway shows are beginning to open up this fall. Do you have a favorite theater memory?

Seeing Chorus Line 17 times as a teenager counts as a pretty pivotal memory! And seeing Shubert Alley motionless & empty this year has subsequently been horrible and heartbreaking. I think of it from both sides-of all the insanely gifted performers in my community who literally had no place to go, and went off in exile in Montana or somewhere, building fences or raising barns...and also from the point of view of the audiences who are starved of the immediate magic only theater brings. We were all like characters in Chekhov now, waiting to go to Moscow, or in our case waiting for the theater to reopen. It will, though, I'm certain of it, and perhaps we'll have become more profound performers-and people-after it's enforced absence.

Aside from concerts, do you have any other summer plans?

My hope for all of us is that, with the weight of daily political craziness lifted, and, lets pray, with the approaching end of the pandemic, we'll all be more ready to come back to our real lives with the lessons of the paradoxes of the pandemic at hand-that making art depends on us, not on commercial structures that exist outside ourselves, and that our art is what we choose to make it. And maybe move past triviality and mere spectacle and recommit to what's essential. And, maybe above all, that we all have less care and more...fun!

I'm thrilled to be recording an album in August based on the film noir inspired concert I did in May, and to have its corresponding film festival running until July 5. It's the second film festival I was asked to curate. Curating itself is a form of storytelling.

I'm also teaching a master class & hope to visit a truly gypsy cottage we are renting in East Hampton springs. The beach there is laid back, and feels as close as I'll get to a Greek island.

To keep up with Melissa, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or go to her website at www.MelissaErrico.com.

Melissa also encourages fans to follow her friends on social media:

Adam Gopnik (Twitter): @adamgopnik

Favorite parenting site (Instagram): @seedlingsgroup

Favorite podcast (Instagram): @PatrickMcEnroe

Favorite ballerina (Instagram): @saramearns

Tickets for Melissa Errico's "Sondheim by the Shore" concert can be purchased by calling 732-946-0427 or by visiting the Holmdel Theatre Company website at https://www.holmdeltheatrecompany.org/melissaerrico. The show will be performed outside of the Duncan Smith Theater on July 17. The theatre is located at 36 Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel, NJ. For more information on Holmdel Theatre Company, you can follow them on Twitter @RealHTC, Instagram @holmdeltheatrecompany, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/holmdeltheatrecompany/.

Photo credit: Jenny Anderson



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