Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling…Charles Baudelaire
It’s 6 a.m. in Studio City, California. Andrea Louisa Marcovicci and Alice Wolfe Reichert are having breakfast…by candlelight. The table is set with fine china. Cloth napkins are carefully arranged. Chai tea is brewed for Alice. The ladies talk. When it’s time for her daughter to catch the school bus, Andrea and Alice hold hands as each makes a wish for the day and blows out a candle.
The Velveteen Rabbit became real when he was loved. What creates a romantic? “I grew up attached to this glorious past represented by an elderly father who danced like nobody’s business and a glamorous mother who sang like nobody’s business…I was moody. I wrote poems. There are forty journals in a garage somewhere.” Andrea used the writing to get through some tough times, but gave it up. “I think I’m kind of singing it out instead.”
Dr. Eugene Marcovicci arrived from Romania by way of Vienna in the 1920s. Dubbed “The Waltzing Doctor,” Andrea’s father-to-be was old school; elegant, graceful, dapper, dignified, stern, and musical—a wonderful classical pianist. These qualities were not taught, but expected of the children. Her mother, Helen Stuart, was—is refined, graceful, stylish, feminine, and musical. She gave up a burgeoning singing career to marry the handsome, imposing physician “who didn’t want her on the road with 27 musicians and a bandleader.” (Dr. and Mrs. Marcovicci, photo at left).
At Marymount, on the Upper East Side, the young Andie, as her father affectionately called her, took piano, theory, singing, and drama. There were also private lessons. She began to perform at school. Additionally, “mommy participated in talent shows up at our summer house and I would get a little something to do.” Coming of age in an era of folk music, she taught herself guitar. A modicum of stage fright clung till after college, but memorization was never an issue. Andrea loved the spotlight even when she feared it. She always knew.
“My first desire, my real true desire, was to be a movie star. I was raised with Million Dollar Movie—the same classic film seven times a week. My brother and I would just SOAK that up. Fred Astaire and Greta Garbo are my two heroes. Absolutely.” The Marcoviccis, however, had their sights set “higher.” They wanted their only daughter to marry well, to be a socialite, to be–secure. She was given white-gloved ballroom dancing lessons at The Colony Club. (Andrea, age 6, at left).
“I was pretty obstinate about not getting married at all. I think I saw that following your dream might mean not attaching your wagon to someone else’s star.” Andrea places her decision in the context of the ferment of women’s liberation at the time, but had an example been set at home?
At the tender age of seventeen, Andrea appeared on The Merv Griffin Show through the aegis of Arlene Francis, whom she’d met at a party. She sang He Was Too Good to Me by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, which she learned from a Kingston Trio record. Having been raised on tear-jerkers, she saw nothing unusual in a girl her age performing the song. Nor, surprisingly, did the entertainment industry—offers flowed in. Andrea was steered back to school with a firm hand. “My parents were concerned about my being good enough to make a success of performing. By the time I was able to leave Bennett (College) the following summer, all that had dissipated.”
Eugene Marcovicci died at eighty-two. Helen Marcovicci was forty-nine. Andrea was “a mere nineteen.” It was devastating, but she says, also very expected. “You grow up hearing Is that your grandfather, that can’t be your father?! My whole life everyone reminded me how old my father was. It made him seem—fragile, which he wasn’t.” She understandably had nightmares. “I don’t regret it at all…I just—(the phrase caught in her throat)—some people have their father to talk to… I was forty-six when Alice was born…” The sentence trails off reflectively.
Most young women would’ve found themselves attracted to older men. Not Andrea. “I wish I had. I might be this independently wealthy person now.” Shades of Dorothy Parker. Instead, despite her convictions, she fell in love at first sight with a man fourteen years her junior. “I might’ve been running in the opposite direction.”
Starting before she was twenty, Andrea sang jingles, acted in commercials, performed on The Mike Douglas Show (repeatedly—he was devoted), and spent three years on the soap Love Is a Many Splendored Thing. She acted on the soap during the day, on or Off Broadway at night, including playing the role of Ophelia for Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park. Then it was back and forth from L.A. for television and film. Andrea never waited on tables. “The only thing I ever did in real life was to sell clothes at Paraphernalia.” In real life. She always worked in the business. A pretty extraordinary record.
There were some big almosts in Andrea’s career: A Golden Globe nomination for The Front (with Woody Allen, photo, above) which she auditioned for and secured on the spot, didn’t lead to a substantial film career. There were two aborted Broadway-bound musicals, Nefertiti and Chaplin, in which she starred respectively as the queen and all of Chaplin’s wives, a canceled television series, and a coveted role in a popular mini-series. “It’s always painful when you audition and you don’t get the part…There have been disappointments…but I would definitely say, my life has been a steady climb. It was always lovely…Everything lead to using all my talents in the field I have.”
Andrea’s premier at West Hollywood’s Gardenia Restaurant (1985) marked what she considers the moment she became a cabaret singer. Had she gotten the part in the mini-series, she would not have been able to appear.
Ten years earlier, when she’d performed at Reno Sweeney’s, “it was just songs…from David Bowie to Kurt Weill. I was too scared to talk. Now I was going to do an act; a whole evening of cabaret.” As an actress, she knew the piece needed structure and decided to build it on “a little life story” of the songs her mother had sung.
The next one, Marcovicci Sings Movies was to Andrea, a “real” show. From then on all her programs were themed, researched, and enacted. They had through lines. Those of us who have been camp followers were intrigued and delighted by the breadth of history and anecdotal information contained in those evenings. They were all—wait for it—improvised! Not until ten years later did Andrea start actually writing! “I create these little plays for myself that are full of acting, full of singing. They’re soooooo rich. Acting is my calling. Singing is my method.”
Her pleasure is infectious.
CDs followed. Beginning in 2oo4, these were all produced by her own label, Andreasong Recordings Inc. available at www.CDBaby.com. There have been numerous awards. Andrea has soloed at Carnegie Hall, performed at the White House, taught Master Classes in the art of cabaret, ardently raised funds…she’s held the American Standard banner aloft so long it’s a wonder her arm still reaches up with such vigor.
Despite being raised by a fellow thespian, Andrea feels much of what she learned from her mother came “through osmosis…The honesty of expression is directly from her” as, I suspect is the enunciation. Also “…enthusiasm, interest in strangers, curiosity.” The Marcovicci women stop to investigate. No rose is left unsmelled. Andrea is conscious of Alice’s youthful discomfort when she lets fly with these tendencies. “I know when I’m gone, she’ll tell people that her mother was a busybody, but it was fun.”
“And my courage comes from my mother.” (Andrea and her mother, photo, left). Both have chosen to keep going, to abstain from bitterness, to withstand loss, to remain interested. “It fills me with energy…I have the propensity…you’d have to have half a mind not to see in my performance that I could go the other way.”
What was she gifted by osmosis from Dr.Marcovicci? “Elegance, discipline, dignity, grace. And musicality.” It comes out like exhaling a cloud. She grows quiet and looks off into the distance perhaps remembering dancing with her father or watching his hands move eloquently across the piano keys. “When I’m singing I find that my head will turn to the gray-haired gentleman in the audience wearing the Brooks Brothers suit…”
Is Alice musical? Andrea lights up, fills with light might be more accurate. “She loves to dance, she sings in the shower, and she paints. There’s so much in the family, I think art might be the way she goes.” There’s so much in the family. Truly.
In 2010, acting work resurfaced, not that Andrea has ever been long away from her passion. There was one day on the soap General Hospital, a brief New York run of Coco, the musical about Coco Chanel played on Broadway by Katharine Hepburn and by Andrea on the West Coast, and “a wonderful, absolutely marvelous part” in an upcoming independent film called Driving By Braille. “Who knows what will happen now?”
Next year is Andrea Marcovicci’s twenty-fifth Anniversary at The Oak Room of The Algonquin Hotel. The theme, though perhaps not the title of her show, will be Two for the Road—Travels of the Heart. “…about being a road warrior…in every way…what it means to have been essentially on the road for so many years-and the cost of that. The cost of having gotten married, had a child, continued the life I was already leading and sustaining the family when I wasn’t home. I’d like to sing about that. And the loss, the inevitable loss.”
Several years ago, in one of her pieces, Andrea used the Portuguese word “saudades,” nostalgia for people, places and things that may never have existed. I remembered the definition as nostalgia for people, places and things one has never experienced.
Andrea Marcovicci embodies saudades. She is of that endangered species, a true romantic.
Woman Around Town’s Six Questions
Favorite Place to Eat: Un Deux, Trois; Sarabeth, Angus, and Orso’s
Favorite Place to Shop: The kiosks at Grand Central Station at holiday time
Favorite New York Sight: Easy, the Chrysler Building
Favorite New York Moment: Once, when I was a child, it snowed near midnight. My father woke my brother and I and drove us to the middle of Central Park to watch it fall!
What You Love About New York: Talking to strangers; and the energy.
What You Hate About New York: Forced to say anything, it’d be the lack of light. I’m here in winter, and when I sing, it’s dark.
Note: Helen Marcovicci has her own wonderful CD: Seems Like Old Times
Photos, from top:
Andrea Marcovicci, photo credit, Heather Sullivan
Dr. and Mrs. Marcovicci
Andrea Marcovicci at age 6
Andrea Marcovicci and Woody Allen in The Front
Andrea performing, photo credit, Gregory Heisler
Andrea Marcovicci and Helen Marcovicci, photo credit, Lynn DiMenna
All quotes are Andrea Marcovicci
Read Alix Cohen’s review of Blue Champagne in Playing Around
Blue Champagne-The History of the Torch Song
The Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel
59 West 44 Street
212-840-6800 or www.algonquinhotel.com
Through December 30, 2010
Including Special Matinees: Wednesdays at 2 p.m. December 22 and 29;
Special Early Show: Monday December 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Shelly Markham, Music Director/Piano