DIVA TALK: Catching Up with Andrea Marcovicci Plus A Chat with Olivia Newton-John

By Andrew Gans
18 Nov 2011

Andrea Marcovicci
photo by Daniel Reichert

Question: How do you think your approach to putting a show together over the past 25 years has changed?
Marcovicci: I might be able to do it a little quicker. It used to take two years to do it, now I can do it within six months. But the approach is the same. I usually start, if it's a biography show, with the textbooks. I start with reading all the books about these people, then I go off to see the movies that have anything to do with them, pulling the sheet music, and then gradually weeding down that sheet music. When I start doing the stories I put the sheet music into the stories, and then I cross-reference that because what ends up happening is that if I'm singing songs that are better for my voice and are really clicking with me, sometimes some stories will disappear. Sometimes, if stories are better than the songs, the songs will disappear, and that juggling act goes on until the set exists. Sometimes if a story is so fantastic that the song has to exist, the story will out. It's a real balancing act. It's really like writing a play every time I do it.

Question: I know you haven't been able to record every show you do, but…
Marcovicci: No, unfortunately I can't, and very rarely do I have an album before I bring the show in. A lot of people work that way, and I've almost never been able to work that way. I think once I did with the Rodgers and Hart album. I think I had that at the same time the show was available, but almost never.

Question: When you do TV and film, there's obviously the document that exists, but what are your thoughts about working in the ephemeral nature of cabaret and theatre—that it exists in the minds of the people who went and saw it?
Marcovicci: I guess because I've done a fair share of theatre and been satisfied with that belief that it lives in the hearts of the people who saw you, and when I began in cabaret, I even resisted making records because I felt that what I did was a live medium, and I was perfectly happy without making records until somebody came up to me and said, "Don't be ridiculous, you've got to make records!" [Laughs.] And, I said, "No, I'm happy live!" [Laughs.] And then, gradually, I made not one or two records, I think dozens at this point. I've only lately been pushed kicking and screaming into the YouTube generation, and I'm beginning to do more of it, and naturally now, I wish I'd filmed myself when I was younger, but I feel that the spontaneous combustion of live cabaret is so splendid that the fact that they go home with their memories makes me very, very happy. I feel more and more people are filming themselves every single time they get up to do their nightclub act, and I'm just not one of those people. I'm not. A little bit more and more, though, I'm submitting to being filmed just so that there will be something left behind and also because I'm teaching more and more, and I hope there will be a record of that. I do believe that the style of cabaret that I am part of, I have inherited from Mabel Mercer and I would like it to continue.

Andrea Marcovicci
photo by Daniel Reichert

Question: I wonder what do you think of all of the reality singing competitions.
Marcovicci: Well, since a lot of it now is based on screaming, I'm not so crazy about it, but that's only because I feel a great deal of contemporary singing is practically dangerous for the voice… I watch "American Idol," and once in a while you'll see a voice that isn't asked to scream or isn't asked to produce such melisma that it's unlistenable. Once every now and then you get a true voice that's really being allowed to sing, but when the voice is being pushed to such limits, it's truly dangerous for the voice. And, of course, I'm so furious with Simon Cowell when he uses cabaret as a derogative term. I wish I could get my hands on that boy [laughs]… and really get through to him somehow. I am not crazy about those competitions for that reason and that reason alone, overuse of melisma and over-belting because the voices won't last.

Question: Just one more question and I'll let you go: What could get you to come back to Broadway?
Marcovicci: Just simply asking me. It would be as simple as that. I would be delighted in any way to be doing a Broadway show. Delighted. I had the best time of my life doing Coco. That was last season at the York. It was just so much fun, so I would be more than enthusiastic. I was happy as I could possibly be in any given day. I would enjoy a straight play… Wouldn't it be wonderful to revive Applause? I would love to do that. I think that would suit me… I understand the problems with Coco, although I would really love to do an Encores! version of Coco. A slightly bigger version. We did it great at the York. We could do it a little bit bigger, but I think Applause would be super for me. I would love to go to Broadway in just about anything!

Question: We'll have to get the word out there!
Marcovicci: Yes, absolutely. I would adore it… It's a beautiful thing that I'm lucky enough to do, and I'm grateful to everyone who helps me do it at all times. We really appreciate the attention paid to cabaret. It's an art form in and of itself. It's alive and well and breathing.

[The Oak Room is located within the Algonquin Hotel at 59 W. 44th Street. For more information and reservations call (212) 419-9331 or (212) 840-6800 and ask for Oak Room Reservations.]