Tony nominee Melissa Errico, known for her incredible voice and vivacious stage presence, will grace the Bay Street Theater stage on December 10 to perform Season for Joy, an evening of holiday fun and music. Errico talks about life as a performer during the pandemic, her new single and more.
How have you kept the performer in you going during the pandemic?
Well, the pandemic paradox for me is that I’ve probably been doing more performing during the pandemic than I would have done had the world stayed sane. I was supposed to go on a big tour in support of my Michael Legrand album, Legrand Affair Deluxe, even London and Paris, but it would have been a walk in the park compared with what I’ve actually done looking into a lens in my bedroom. There’s been a huge appetite for entertainment—Zoom shows and one-woman recitals and benefits for struggling theaters and original cast recording launches and the Stephen Sondheim birthday celebration and even a full-length Zoom musical, not to mention new “singles” and videos to support them. And all from my study with the kids downstairs! I am excited to be a part of Meet Me in St. Louis with Irish Rep, which airs December 11–January 1, a “performance on screen” with a wonderful cast, all shot on green screen studios built in our separate apartments and homes. In truth, I’ve probably been busier with the world shut down then had it stayed open, which is a lesson of a kind—home is where the art is.
How does it feel to see Broadway dark for this long?
Horrible and heartbreaking. I think of it from both sides—of all the insanely gifted performers in my community who now literally have no place to go, and are off in exile in Montana or somewhere, building fences or raising barns…and also from the point of view of the audiences who are starved of the immediate magic only theater brings. We’re all like characters in Chekhov now, waiting to go to Moscow. or in our case waiting for the theater to reopen. It will, though, I’m certain of it, and perhaps we’ll have become more profound performers—and people—after it’s enforced absence.
Talk about the show at Bay Street Theater. What can audiences expect?
Bay Street asked me to do a holiday show, and, loving Bay Street as I do, I said yes at once—but I knew I wanted to do something that had a little more sass and spice than just one more soprano singing ‘Silent Night.” Someone once called me “Jessica Rabbit with a PhD.” and that still makes me laugh! I wanted to stay on that brand, or hop. So with the help of my very swinging, jazzy pianist Tedd Firth, and my co-writer, The New Yorker essayist Adam Gopnik, we put together a show of surprises—a “seminar” on Christmas music by Jewish songwriters; some songs you don’t think of as Christmas songs but ought to be; plus the debut of a new song by Andrew Lippa and a politically correct take on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” not to mention a video we found of my very first Christmas song performance, age 6. And with it, a chance to sing with my pianist father, who’s in his eighties and quarantined away here, but still making beautiful music with his daughter. Yes, I am singing a song with Dad.
Tell us about your new single release with Lara Downes.
Lara was one of the great gifts of this strange year for me. She’s an astonishingly gifted classical pianist and a committed political activist. We decided to collaborate, remotely, on a version of the great Arlen-Harburg song, “Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe,” with a few new winking political words and all the obvious overtones. But we fell so in love with each other’s music and the song itself, that we’ve put out a ‘straight’ non-winking version for the New Year. We even made a video for it, her in golden California light and me in East Hampton twilight. She’s a spiritual sister—a woman artist making her art for its own sake and for anyone with ears to hear. Independence and self-direction! It’s our common passion.
What is your hope for the arts community going forward into 2021?
My hope for all of us is that, with the weight of daily political craziness lifted, and, lets pray, with the approaching end of the pandemic, we’ll all be more ready to come back to our real lives with the lessons of the paradoxes of the pandemic at hand—that making art depends on us, not on commercial structures that exist outside ourselves, and that our art is what we choose to make it. And maybe move past triviality and mere spectacle and recommit to what’s essential. And, maybe above all, that we all have less care and more…fun.
For tickets and more information, visit baystreet.org.