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Using her mind, her body and her soul

At the Gardenia, Andrea Marcovicci doesn't just sing songs -- she embraces their history and emotion.

March 23, 2007|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

To listen to a cabaret singer is to fall in love -- with the singer and the song.

The love affair with Andrea Marcovicci has been going on for 22 years at the Gardenia here in L.A. and nearly as long at the Plush Room in San Francisco and the Oak Room in New York. The 58-year-old singer, a devoted student of the American popular song, revisits some of the greatest tunes she's performed in those two decades in "just love ... By Request," a concert that lets the audience help guide her through her repertoire. It continues through Saturday at the Gardenia.

Marcovicci's voice is sunny and focused on top, dark and resonant at the bottom. What has made her one of the most respected singers in cabaret, though, is her actor's ability to live a song and her fascination with songwriting history, whether World War II love songs or the rich output of such composers as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and Frank Loesser.

Cabaret-goers are given a booklet that lists 128 individual songs or medleys, as well as a slip of paper on which to list three choices. Into a framework of nine self-selected songs or pairings at Wednesday's opening, Marcovicci interspersed seven requests, pulled from a hat and sung from memory, to Shelly Markham's piano accompaniment (he got to use sheet music).

Among her chosen songs were such unusual selections as "Or What Have You," a jaunty, jumping Morris Hamilton-Grace Henry tune from 1929, and the humorous "Shakespeare Lied," an Elmer Bernstein-Carolyn Leigh number from the 1967 Broadway musical "How Now, Dow Jones."

For drama, there was the pairing of the lovers-out-of-sync songs "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," by Kern and Otto Harbach, and Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns," which left Marcovicci, having passed though bitterness, ironic detachment and self-aware acceptance of blame, wiping away tears.

For comedy, there was the martyr-in-love interior monologue of Christine Lavin's contemporary classic "Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind."

The wobble in Marcovicci's vibrato, which gets away from her at times, has become distracting in recent years, but her interpretive skill just keeps getting sharper, as in her fascinating new take on the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II chestnut "Some Enchanted Evening," one of the requested songs. Against Markham's pointillistic piano shimmer, she broke the lyrics into discrete blocks, which she delivered like a lecture on love, filled with the mindful if tender assurance of one who has been there, done that.


Andrea Marcovicci

Where: Gardenia, 7066 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.

When: 9 p.m. today and Saturday

Price: $20, plus dinner or $10 drink minimum

Contact: (323) 467-7444

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