Known for her Broadway performances in My Fair Lady, High Society, Amour, and White Christmas as well as numerous runs off-Broadway and around the country, Cabaret in the Music Room’s Melissa Errico talks with us about her upcoming program “Broadway’s Fair Ladies,” motherhood, and the passion required for collaborating on new works.
[tout]Cabaret is the most personal art form any singer can experience. There is no hiding…[/tout]
Your program is titled, “Broadway’s Fair Ladies: The Music and Characters that have Shaped My Life.” Without giving too much away, which of these characters was one of your earliest influences, and how did you come across her?
I would say Maria in West Side Story. Both from Italian immigrant families, my parents identified deeply with this musical and with a sense of struggle, aspiration and passion to be American. I would say I probably sensed this musical, in unspoken ways, in my home long before I understood how it motivated and was even a source of comfort to my mother and father.
Adela and Lawrence Elow, Caramoor Trustees and longtime supporters of Cabaret at Caramoor, often work very closely with the Cabaret artists they’ve hand-selected. How will this partnership inform your upcoming performance? What have you most enjoyed about this hands-on approach?
They have inspired me to look more deeply at why I sing, and encouraged me to construct something meaningful beyond simply a collection of popular favorites. I have been so impressed by how much they care and how knowledgeable they are about how to draw the best out of a performer.
What was your process for creating this show? How do you approach a cabaret program differently from a more traditional concert or role?
My process was to choose songs that are going to feel really great to sing this month, at this moment in time. I never put myself on remote control. Cabaret is the most personal art form any singer can experience. There is no hiding, and, when it’s fun and silly, it’s just you & me & nothing else. No sets! No costumes! Just people having a great night together.
[tout]I hope I will pass on to my children a mindset of growth and experimentation.
And a love of listening.[/tout]
You’re now a mother of three young daughters. What are some things you have learned from performing that you can apply to your parenting or teach your children?
I have learned to trust that there’s always room to take risks. Performing is about stretching oneself to new places, trying new things and re-attuning oneself almost every day to small and big changes–in ourselves and in people, and life, around us. It’s like artists are always reading the world, and being conscious of their responses. What I mean is that performing is, above all, about change, and staying in motion. Much less important are the milestones and fixed goals we set. I hope I will pass on to my children a mindset of growth and experimentation. And a love of listening.
You’re a new Westchester resident. Have you found a favorite Westchester spot yet?
The small quiet sunroom in our house. Anytime you buy or rent a new home, I think you can only hope there is one small feature that makes the whole thing feel good. For me, it was this one half circle of a room. I put it aside as a place to write a novel one day.
Do performances outside of New York City feel different?
Somehow they feel less hurried. I can’t explain exactly why. I always feel like New Yorkers are ready to catch the next train, even at a great show you can feel like you need to keep racing. It might be something I’ll get better at as I get older. Slowing Manhattanites (or is it me?) down. I love performing really anywhere, honestly.
How do you de-stress pre- or post-performance?
Before a performance, I de-stress by being organized. After, I de-stress by being thoroughly disorganized.
If you had not pursued performing as a career, what do you think you would be doing now?
I wish I could say I would be a doctor. That’s my best self talking, yet I admire doctors so much I dare not even say it would have been attainable. Maybe teaching Art History, or writing. If I didn’t care at all about living & working (in the east coast ways to which I am indoctrinated), I might have disappeared to the Greek islands and sold jewelry. Part of me belongs in Greece.
[tout]I am a researcher. I begin by researching the time and place, if there is a history to learn, if there are historical foundations I have to study.[/tout]
In your career, you’ve been instrumental in supporting new musicals in their development, as well as having written your own songs. What do you find to be the most rewarding part of working on a new work? How does performing an original song or new musical compare to performing classics from the American Songbook or traditional Broadway canon?
The most rewarding part of a new musical is EVERYTHING!!! The differences in my approach between a new work or an old work are really few. I am a researcher. I begin by researching the time and place, if there is a history to learn, if there are historical foundations I have to study. I look at images and read and watch whatever I can. If it were Next to Normal or KING & I, I would be reading about bipolar disorder or Siam with equal intensity. That’s how I start. Then I go to the woman I’m asked to play and work on understanding her, and her choices and her actions.
What’s next for you?
Birdland Jazz Club July 3rd in NYC, and much more! It’s all on my website. www.melissaerrico.com.
I’m rather excited to do two nights in concert of KISS ME KATE in the Hamptons on August 25 & 26th with Richard Troxell from The Met Opera as my costar.
Saturday [slash] May 6 [slash] 8:30pm
Cabaret in the Music Room with
Chamber, Classical, Program Alumni [slash]Spanish Courtyard
Tickets start at $75
The American Songbook opens up on the Music Room stage for this annual Benefit Concert, welcoming New York City-born actress, singer, recording artist and writer Melissa Errico. A star performer, Errico shined in leading Broadway musical roles as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and in Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her work in Michel Legrand’s Amour. Errico’s performance this spring offers a rare opportunity to enjoy her magic up close in the intimate Music Room.
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