As a girl, I saw an unknown Joni Mitchell sing at a tiny club in Greenwich Village. The experience was memorable. I watched for other appearances and took particular pleasure in her success. Many New York residents can recall like incidents- occasions on which performance talent was observed while blossoming, going on to achieve wide recognition.
Monday night, I witnessed an artist, who with guidance and luck will be selling out clubs and concert stages in the years to come. By the third number, I had written “Barbra Streisand” in the margin of my set list. Marieann Meringolo has spent her professional life to date on the seas (literally) and just to the left of the limelight despite a number of awards. This is about to change. If I were you, I’d get to Feinstein’s while the getting is good to see the beginning of what’s clearly a new chapter in her career. The lady has an extraordinary voice.
Meringolo begins singing from the audience, drawing us in as she makes her way to the stage. “What I really want to do is fill your glass with lyrics as you drink in the music.” Saluting composer Michel Legrand who just turned 80, she’s aware of the importance and meaning of the words, unfortunately not a given in cabaret today.
“On My Way to You” is heartfelt, restrained, and elevated by nuanced phrasing: If I had changed a single day/ What went amiss or went astray/ I may have never found my way to you. An unexpected octave change on the second line of this verse sends a shiver up my spine. “After the Rain” reflects an ability to sculpt notes. Sustained phrases are exhilarating.
“I Was Born in Love with You” from 1970’s ill fated Wuthering Heights is a difficult, unmelodic piece. The vocalist delivers every bit of its exacting music and lyric drama. An unusual choice, the song effectively prefaces others that explore spending eternity with your partner.
A medley of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” and “Summer Me, Winter Me” follows. (Surely a fresher pairing could have been found). The first offering is a head-on-the-shoulder fox trot, all the more effective for naturalness of expression. When it grows expansive (oh, the sweeping arcs!) feelings fly, still, Meringolo’s vocal is precise. The second number is unfortunately so heavily percussive, up tempo and BIG, it bruises a beautiful song. This reoccurs later with “The Windmills of Your Mind.” General over use of cha cha and rumba arrangements are also rhythmically at odds with inherent intensions of the writing.
“Once Upon a Summertime” (lyrics by Johnny Mercer), a lovely oom pah waltz wistfully and mournfully rendered, is coupled with “The Summer Knows.” You could brew a cup of tea while Meringolo holds an achingly sympathetic note. The rarely performed, highly poetic “Pieces of Dreams:” Pieces of dreams/Islands and oceans/Lovers marooned in each other’s arms is attributed emotional resonance. (Others have made this sound like a Hallmark card).
Songs are well sequenced. Patter is kept to an enhancing minimum. When Meringolo engages her audience, especially from amongst them, she’s sincere and appealing.
“You Must Believe in Spring” starts with only piano accompaniment. Meringolo’s voice is lustrous. Every fiber in me hopes she’ll perform the entire song in the same meticulous, unfussy fashion with only the single instrument. Alas, the implicit treat is not forthcoming. A well chosen encore, “Something New in My Life” leaves us feeling we have, in fact, experienced something new.
Photo credit: Alina Wilczynski
All lyrics are by Alan & Marilyn Bergman unless otherwise noted.
You Must Believe in Spring
Marieann Maringolo Sings the Music of Michel Legrand
Directed by Eric Michael Gillett
Doyle Newmeyer-Musical Director/Arranger/Pianist
Feinstein’s at Loew’s Regency
540 Park Avenue at 61st Street
March 4, 11, & 18, 2012