[Dixielandjazz] Marcovicci Sings Mercer

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 26 08:42:59 PST 2009

Folks visiting New York City might wish to check this venue out. The  
Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel is a legendary venue for us older  
music lovers. When I was a kid, trying to impress young ladies, with  
my urbane wit, we would go to the early show in places like this to  
hear the American Songbook tunes, and then visit a jazz joint on 52nd  
Street, or in Greenwich Village.

Heady times and the Oak Room perpetuates the nostalgia.

BTW, it was the Algonquin Hotel that hosted  the"vicious circle"  
roundtable, a group of writers and actors that met daily there from  
about 1919 to 1929.  Attendees included Dorothy Parker, Robert  
Benchley, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood  
Broun, Harpo Marx and many others over the years.

Steve Barbone

November 26, 2009 - NY TIMES - by Stephen Holden

Ever a Huckleberry Friend, Come Rain or Come Shine

To attend an Andrea Marcovicci cabaret show is to participate in a  
communal rite in which it is tacitly understood — at least during the  
duration of the performance — that nothing today can match the magic  
and romance of old Hollywood and Broadway. An audience of a certain  
age agrees to gorge retrospectively on the illusions of youth from an  
era long before the proliferation of viral gossip and reality  
television. As the ceremonial priestess, Ms. Marcovicci plays a grand,  
smiling Hollywood hostess — a Loretta Young-like figure — throwing  
open doors to a rose-colored mythology.

Her new show, “Skylark: Marcovicci Sings Mercer,” at the Oak Room of  
the Algonquin Hotel, a tribute to the songwriter Johnny Mercer, who  
would have turned 100 on Nov. 18 (Ms. Marcovicci turned 61 the same  
day), should perpetuate her reign as the queen of high-class cabaret  
nostalgia. At the opening-night show last week, Ms. Marcovicci, who is  
celebrating her 23rd year at the Oak Room, once again worked her wiles  
as a show-business medium channeling Olympian spirits. Mercer may have  
had a drinking problem — when in his cups, she said, he once told  
Irving Berlin that he “couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag” —  
but it was a minor quirk in her otherwise hagiographic account of his  

Accompanied by Shelly Markham on piano and Jered Egan on bass, she  
sang and acted Mercer songs (he wrote mostly lyrics), from “Skylark”  
to “My Shining Hour,” with the emotional intensity of a precocious  
teenager quiveringly alive in the fantasy of the song. As usual Ms.  
Marcovicci seasoned the standards with interesting obscurities. One  
was Mercer’s first published song, “Out of Breath (and Scared to Death  
of You”), with music by Everett Miller, from the 1930 show “The  
Garrick Gaities.”

The hard-headed “Gettin’ a Man” (music by Harold Arlen) from the 1959  
show “Saratoga” is a woman’s description of the rigors of courtship:

With eager stares

They buy your wares

As samples you unpack.

They even pay

Provided they

Can send the merchandise back.

Ms. Marcovicci’s singing, as always, was problematic. If you closed  
your eyes and simply listened, her voice was wobbly, her phrasing  
uncertain. But the spectacle of Ms. Marcovicci in elegant regalia,  
fluttering her hands, clasping her chest, tilting her head back and  
gazing dreamily into space, made you ignore all that. The spell was  
cast, the elixir consumed.

“Skylark: Marcovicci Sings Mercer” runs through Dec. 26 at the Oak  
Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212)  

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