A girl singer who’s sublime with Sondheim
Among the stellar cast, Melissa Errico will play The Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods: In Concert,” Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. Her career résumé has been a steady, impressive, upward course. Her first Broadway role was as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” opposite Richard Chamberlain when she was 22, chosen over 600 aspirants. Other credits include “High Society” and “Amour” (Tony nomination for best leading actress plus six Drama Desk nominations overall). Last year she starred as the lead in the Irish Repertory Theater’s “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” Besides collaborations with Steven Sondheim on the revival of “Sunday in the Park With George,” “Passion” and “Do I Hear A Waltz?” Errico has appeared in television in Showtime’s “Billions” and the series “Central Park West,” and film, including the 2019 “Magnificent Meyersons.” She performed concerts regularly through 2017 and 2018 at Feinstein’s 54 in “Melissa Sings Sondheim,” as well as a sold-out UK version in London. In December she released “Sondheim Sublime,” receiving wow reviews from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others, as her sixth solo CD. The 92nd Street Y beckons on March 15 for a week, and Errico will perform her recent album release concert in London on May 6, 7 and 8. Errico spoke by telephone to the Advance last week.
Long Island Advance: You just released “Sondheim Sublime.” Did Stephen DeAngelis come knocking on your door shortly afterwards?
Melissa Errico: This is one of my dream roles. [The CD release] came out in December and of all the wonderful things that happened to me and the thing that got me my caricature in Sardi’s was because I did this tribute to Sondheim. I accepted this role because John McDaniel is one of the most well regarded musicians on Broadway. Also, Alice Ripley and I have been friends forever.”
LIA: You’ve collaborated with Sondheim several times. What’s it like to work with him?
ME: He’s given me a ton of advice. There’s nobody more perfectionist or exacting. As he says and stresses, ‘God is in the details,’ and I do get notes if a rhythm isn’t right or if I changed the tempo of the song. [For example], he’ll say, ‘if you’re doing it for vulnerability, you should tone it down more.’ He recognizes me as a girl singer and says, ‘if you’re going to do girl singer, do the song the way I wrote it first.’ He wants to make sure his melodies are heard. He’ll give you interesting notes. When I sang the word ‘wouldn’t’ without pronouncing the ‘dent,’ he insisted, ‘you have to sing the apostrophe.’ He has rules. If you have the privilege of his advice, I really like doing songs knowing he’s pleased.
LIA: What will you sing in the Patchogue production?
ME: This was the only role that won the Tony. (It got three; Joanna Gleason won for best actress.) One of the songs the character sings is “Moments in the Woods.” After she gets everything she ever wanted as a mother, she then sees Prince Charming and comes across Little Red Riding Hood and gives the baby to her to hold, which gives her the freedom to bump into him. [They have a fling.] Then she realizes she’s a mother with a husband and a boyfriend and she feels terrible; it was about the shame she has. The character has done something that felt great and has a wonderful song about a moment. Then when you’re back to your life with that moment, everything has a different meaning. It’s a funny song. She decides to not suffer too much guilt. I think going into the woods is what everyone can relate to, whether it’s the darkness of your mind and the metaphor for the woods is more relevant than ever. It’s about the dangers, how we protect each other, flirt with each other, and how life is a puzzle, and once you do the puzzle, are you happy? We set ourselves up for all these lists and this whole show is about that.
LIA: You grew up where on Long Island?
ME: In Manhasset. I received training at ballet classes in Port Washington and attended Hofstra University and American Dance Machine [in New York City]. My husband, Patrick McEnroe, is a world-class tennis player. We summer sometimes out East, where he runs a tennis academy. In 2017 and 2018, we were the ambassadors of the Long Island Arts Alliance. We have three daughters — the twins are dancers and the eldest, 12, is a nationally ranked tennis player. They are good, solid dancers. Tennis and ballet are both pretty hard and I try to make them resilient.
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