Melissa Errico

April 7, 2016

Melissa ErricoIn her recent show at Feinstein’s/54 Below, directed by Robbie Rozelle and backed only by musical director Tedd Firth (“my orchestra”) on piano, Melissa Errico neatly melded the two major musical strains of her performing career. Songs from Broadway (her own roles and those of others) showcased her solid and soaring “legit” soprano; her contrasting penchant for the calmer work of singer-songwriters revealed her sensitive way with lyrics.

She began her set with “The Secret of Life,” by James Taylor, who said that secret was to “enjoy the passage of time” and realize that “love is the only road.” Errico quipped that she had finally come to the same conclusion “very expensively, with lots of therapy.” She also looked inward with thoughtful renditions of Joni Mitchell’s “People’s Parties” and Randy Newman’s “Real Emotional Girl.”

A lyric from “Small World” (Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, from Gypsy) gave Errico the title of this act: “Funny! I’m A Woman with Children.” Her own daughters were in the audience, along with several other children. While motherhood was her stated primary theme—supported by such numbers as “Something New in My Life” (Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman, from the movie Micki and Maude) and “Children Will Listen” (Sondheim, from Into the Woods)—it was eclipsed by more songs of romantic love. Errico paired “Shy,” a number cut from My Fair Lady (Lerner & Loewe, who replaced the song with the less overtly romantic “I Could Have Danced All Night”), with “Ribbons Down My Back” (Jerry Herman, from Hello, Dolly!), recalling that she was wearing ribbons on re-meeting her husband, Patrick McEnroe, twenty years ago. (They’d first met at age five, in kindergarten.) In a touching rendition of “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” (Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash, from One Touch of Venus), she asked whether love was still popular.

A rare misfire was her take on the pop/folk song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Ewan MacColl). As an unlikely mashup with “Marry Me a Little” (Sondheim, cut from Company but finding a life of its own in revues of the composer’s work), the Roberta Flack signature song suffered in comparison with Errico’s greater comfort level with Sondheim’s Off-Broadway evergreen. Once back on form, she returned to romance with “The Way He Makes Me Feel” (Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman, from Yentl) and “Never Saw Blue Like That” (Jeff Franzel, Mark Luna, Tom Kimmel), Errico’s own foray into crossover pop recording in 2003. Her brother, Mark Errico, nicely played guitar and sang with her on this song.

The hands-down standout of this show was “Always Better” (Jason Robert Brown, from The Bridges of Madison County), during which Errico, singing the song in public for the first time, understandably began tearing up. “Sometimes you actually do believe what you’re singing,” she explained. The hard news of the evening came in her shout-out to her children: “Mommy’s got a job! They said I couldn’t talk about it, but they never said I couldn’t sing it.” Her exuberant “Do I Hear a Waltz?” (Richard Rodgers, Sondheim) telegraphed her lead role in the next show in the City Center “Encores” series. Perfect casting

Speaking of encores, hers in this show, “The April Fools” (Burt Bacharach, Hal David, from The April Fools), perhaps sung only because of the date of her 54 Below gig, was an anti-climax, not to mention second-rate Bacharach & David. Better to have closed with the title song from her upcoming Encores show.

“Funny! I’m A Woman with Children”
Feinstein’s/54 Below — April 1, 2


About the Author

Robert Windeler is the author of 18 books, including biographies of Mary Pickford, Julie Andrews, Shirley Temple, and Burt Lancaster. As a West Coast correspondent for The New York Times and Time magazine, he covered movies, television and music, and he was an arts and entertainment critic for National Public Radio. He has contributed to a variety of other publications, including TV Guide, Architectural Digest, The Sondheim Review, and People, for which he wrote 35 cover stories. He is a graduate of Duke University in English literature and holds a masters in journalism from Columbia, where he studied critical writing with Judith Crist. He has been a theatre critic for Back Stage since 1999, writes reviews for, and is a member of The Players and the American Theatre Critics Association.