Review by Sam Waite
The title for Melissa Errico’s 5th engagement at Crazy Coqs, The Life and Loves of a Broadway Baby, is incredibly apt. Not only treading the boards many times herself in legendary roles others only dream of playing, but she also comes from a showbiz family – a relative of hers was part of the original company of Show Boat – and even before she told us, I could tell she had grown up in a house where music was deeply appreciated.
Beginning with a Michel Legrand number, with Legrand later being discussed as a key influence on both her and her father, Errico’s vocal and dramatic abilities are immediately apparent on “Watch What Happens.” Her reverence for the world of jazz then took over for a rousing “Come Rain or Come Shine” before the first of many personal highlights, a passionate, sweet performance of the Gershwins’ “The Man I Love.”
Anyone familiar with Errico, and many who are just aficionados of musical theatre, will already know how strong a performer she is. While more than capable of soaring and delicate soprano heights, her voice is most comfortable in a range and style not unlike the classic divas of the golden age. Her technique and use of vibrato call to mind a period of brassy broads and dapperly dressed men, demonstrating how influenced she is by musical theatre’s rich history, and bringing a classic, lived-in quality to her work.
Between the array of well-chosen songs are the stories – anecdotes about her family and her experiences working in the theatre. Some actors, you can see are born for the stage from the wa
y they speak when not reading from a script, and Melissa Errico has this performative personality on spades. At times she is measured and relaxed in her storytelling, and at others she stumbles over her words because she has so much she wants to tell us and so little time to do so. A sweet, unplanned moment between her and her husband, who she noted had arrived late because of Wimbledon, cemented both her authenticity and her ability to spin anything into a part of the show.
Alone at the mic for most of the evening, Errico was joined by a fabulous quartet of musicians, consisting of bandleader James Pearson on piano, Sam Burgess on bass, drums by Chris Higgenbottom, and Graeme Blevins playing saxophone and flute. All of them are wonderful musicians and masters of their instruments, and never faded into the background or felt like part of the scenery. Without their contributions, Errico makes no secret of the fact that the whole set would simply cease to be – she is openly in awe of Pearson, and deeply impressed by all of their abilities.
Another onstage personality appeared midway through in the form of special guest Isabelle Georges – Errico’s “Parisian doppleganger” who starred in the original, French-language production of Amour before it was transferred, and translated, with Errico taking on her role. The pair, obviously good friends and with such a sweet, tender chemistry you’d assume they’d known one another their entire lives, sang a handful of duets in the show’s middle section. In a moment of graciousness, Errico stepped away to allow Georges her own moment in the spotlight, before joking that this was part of a scheme to make the Parisian superstar a world-famous icon whether she wants it or not.
This delightful interlude led into the sole original composition of the set, a funny character piece titled “I Can’t Speak French” written by Marc Shaiman, with lyrics co-written by Adam Gopnik, especially for Errico. A witty, joke-heavy piece of patter focused on just how many common English words are taken directly from the French language, this allowed for some final moments of fun with Georges befire Errico became a solo leading lady once more. (Obviously she came back for the encore, but half the fun is pretending you don’t know it’s going to happen!)
Sadly, after a rousing take on Rogers and Hart’s “The Lady is a Tramp” the evening had to come to a close. After singing Sondheim, Porter, Loesser, and of course Legrand, Melissa Errico exited the stage and had no more songs to sing… until she gave her husband a quick peck on the cheek and dashed back up for one more! Isabelle Georges was beckoned back on stage, so that the two could give us one more song, and a bit of tap dancing for good measure.
Carried off with the kind of personable, good-humoured personality that made it a moment of sheer joy when she noticed a stray thread slowly unravelling her sleeve and enlisted an audience member to snip it off as best he could, the whole evening was an absolute delight from start to finish. With no air of pretence or self-importance, Errico seemed genuinely choked up to find that two people she had hit it off with on the flight over were both in attendance at the same performance. A woman of the people, she was generous with her time both on and off stage, during and after performing.
Funny, beautiful, and dazzlingly talented, Melissa Errico made no secret of why she is in such high demand decades into her illustrious career. And of course, she made no more a secret of how she came to play all of these iconic roles – her take on “Not While I’m Around” was stirring, but a choice to perform Sunday in the Park with George’s “Move On” for the latter show was almost life-changing in the clarity of her character choices even within the cabaret setting.
Still a star to watch, and one who will be undoubtedly welcomes with a swarm of open-armed supporters when she next returns to London, Melissa Errico is everything a Broadway leading lady ought to be. Not only talented but with an incredibly kind spirit, she gave us an unforgettable night, and made each and every person feel that they were truly appreciated, just for being there to watch her sing.
To view Melissa Errico’s upcoming appearances, visit https://melissaerrico.com/calendar/
Photos by Danny Kaan
(this is the order of songs as provided ahead of time for the 7pm performance)
1. WATCH WHAT HAPPENS
Words and Music by Michel Legrand and Norman Gimbel
2. COME RAIN OR COME SHINE
Words and Music by: Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen
3. THE MAN I LOVE
Words and Music by George and Ira Gershwin
4. BROADWAY BABY
Words and Music by Stephen Sondheim
5. LOVERLY / FAVORITE THINGS
Wouldn’t It Be Loverly: Words and Music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
My favorite Things: Words and Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
6. LUCK BE A LADY TONIGHT
Words and Music by Frank Loesser
7. ITS ALRIGHT WITH ME
Words and Music by Cole Porter
8. SUMMERTIME / THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND
Summertime: Words and Music by George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin
The Windmills of Your Mind: Words and Music by Alan and Marilyn Bergman
(enter Isabelle Georges)
9. JUMELLES (duet with Isabelle Georges)
Words and Music by Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy
10. AMOUR DUET (duet with Isabelle Georges)
Words and Music by Michel Legrand and Jean-Loup Dabadie
11. ISABELLE GEORGES SOLO
12. I CAN’T SPEAK FRENCH
Words and Music by Marc Shaiman (new/original song written for Melissa)
13. YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING (duet with Isabelle Georges)
Words and Music by Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy
14. NOT WHILE I’M AROUND or ACCUSTOMED TO HIS FACE
Not While I’m Around: Words and Music by Stephen Sondheim
I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face: Words and Music by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner
15. LADY IS A TRAMP
Words and Music by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?
Words and Music by Michel Legrand, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman
(DUET with Isabelle Georges) YOU AND ME (tap dance)
Words and Music by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse