By Jacob Katel
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"It looks on the first face of it that maybe this isn't so hip," admits Andrea Marcovicci, referring to her cabaret show titled Andrea Sings Astaire. "But what's been happening is that young people come to a performance and then go out and rent every Fred Astaire movie." Netflix, take note. Marcovicci, the Manhattan cabaret star who began binging on Astaire films at the age of five, has rarely, if ever, despite her sincere humility, been unhip. She consistently attracts interesting artists and projects with her contagious enthusiasm and honest, easy sense of humor. All of this blends with her warm, embracing vocals, flawless in diction, on her mission that she says, "has to be about the preservation of the American popular song."
Marcovicci is quick to point out the crucial difference between jazz-singing and cabaret: The former begins with and emphasizes the music. The latter begins with and emphasizes the lyric. Marcovicci adds she's proud to "follow in the footsteps of the great traditionalists such as Bobby Short and Mabel Mercer." Her choice of Fred Astaire the singer as a theme for one of her "little plays" comes from his having popularized some of the most enduring songs in the "great American songbook," as well as from his famous loyalty to the melody as written.
Though Marcovicci's career achievements are the best evidence of her go-with-the-flow hipness, there was one early indicator. In 1976 she was cast in director Martin Ritt's The Front, a comedic film about the Joe McCarthy-era blacklistings and their effect on New York television writers. Her role as the love interest (bless her heart) of Woody Allen's character led to a Golden Globe nomination for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture.
Marcovicci, describing the often crude turns that popular culture has taken in the past 50 years, wrote in a 1994 article for the New York Times: "I have a theory that when President Lyndon Johnson pulled up his shirt to show the American public his surgical scar, it was the end of civilization as we knew it. It's been pretty much downhill since then. One of the most important things about cabaret is the world it conjures up. It is a world of elegance, grace, and sophistication cocktails and conversation, fox trots and Fred Astaire, of Dorothy Parker and the perfect retort. But the world we're stuck with today is so overproduced. Broadway's gone bombastic; movies are all special effects and car chases; pop music is mostly brassy belt or rhythm and anger. Where to go for tenderness, a clever turn of phrase, a moving melody? Cabaret." Andrés Solar