New York Cabaret Review: ANDREA MARCOVICCI: SMILE (Café Carlyle)

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by Harvey Perr on October 20, 2012

in Theater-New York

SMILE, THOUGH YOUR HEART IS BREAKING

Andrea Marcovicci, who reinvented the torch song for a new generation, has looked our depression/recession straight in the face and decided that what she needs to do is to lift our spirits.  In Smile, her current show at the Café Carlyle, Marcovicci’s toothy smile radiates the purest form of joy as she swings her way through the “happiest” song cycle in memory.

If, these days, the songs seem to have an unintended irony, Marcovicci proves that the irony may have, in fact, been completely intended.  And even if heartbreak is not really lurking behind so many of these lyrics, her imaginative interpretations reveal the melancholy within the “mirth-giving. “

Just listen to the way she sings the word “phony” in her opening song, “Paper Moon:” I don’t think I’ve ever heard it sung quite so harshly before.  The tune lilts and we get lost in our nostalgia for the past (and feel good), but we worry a bit that the “Barnum and Bailey world” is still too much with us.  And she slips into the Gershwins’s “Slap That Bass” with a “zoom zoom” that puts a smile on our face, thereby accomplishing, right at the outset, what Marcovicci has set out to do.  The titles say everything:  “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries” (is it? really?); “Are You Havin’ Any Fun?” (well, are you?); “Ain’t We Got Fun?” (do we?); “Isn’t It A Lovely Day?” (despite the rain); “Pick Yourself Up” (well, what else are you gonna do?).  You get the idea; and it’s a terrific idea, as she proves again and again.

Marcovicci doesn’t really sing in the sense of hitting every musical note on perfect pitch, but with each song she tells a story, turning phrases as one might in conversation, which makes you feel as if you are hearing the song for the first time.  There are unexpected tributes to cabaret’s long-heralded chanteuse Hildegarde (including a song about umbrellas that is a genuine oddity) and to Bing Crosby (but don’t expect the Bing you know; not when you can rediscover a zingy little tune called “Zing a Little Zong,” or have an excuse to revive “Mairzy Doats”).  Her maternal instincts are in full bloom in an eloquent “Look At Those Eyes.”  And a Rodgers and Hart medley that includes “This Can’t Be Love” and “Thou Swell” is sheer merriment.  And she joins “If I Had You” with “It Had To Be You,” which gently give us the bitter and the sweet.

But it’s always the lesser known or less expected that really triumph here.  A subtly comic “You’ll Get Over It” and a Pink song, “Glitter In The Air,” which Marcovicci not only makes her own, but manages to give her audience –  expecting more chill than the warmth she emits so generously in the show – that which has always made Marcovicci such a blazing star on the cabaret circuit: the opportunity to hear that combination of compassion and wit found in at the heart of the best songs, and of which Marcovicci is such a master.

photo by Daniel Reichert

Andrea Marcovicci : Smile
at the Café Carlyle
scheduled to end October 27, 2012
for tickets, call (212) 744-1600

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