Melissa Errico: White Christmas and Other Colors

Melissa Errico

White Christmas and Other Colors

Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, AZ, December 9, 2023

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Melissa Errico
Photo: David Kenas

Making her debut at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), Melissa Errico kicked off her cabaret wearing a long red gown and singing Barbra Streisand’s arrangement of “Jingle Bells.” Her music director/pianist was none other than Randy Waldman. Having served as Streisand’s pianist/conductor since 1984, he knows her arrangement. He has also worked with other major artists; when he was only 21 he toured with Frank Sinatra. He led Errico’s trio, which included bass and drums, with quiet power while she handled all the vocals and patter.

This was Errico’s MIM debut, and she had set foot in Arizona for the first time just a few hours before her show. Known for recording and touring with Sondheim material, she integrated many of his songs into her holiday cabaret, including “Everybody Says Don’t,” “I Remember,” “Not While I’m Around,” and “Sooner or Later.” Errico collaborated with New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik who penned parody lyrics for her. They came up with a medley of holiday-themed Sondheim parodies to the melodies of “Send in the Clowns,” “Sorry-Grateful,” “Losing My Mind” (with a funny take on a parent assembling toys on Christmas Eve), and a little-too-rapid “Getting Married (We’re Not Seeing Santa) Today.”

Errico has her own impressive résumé, having played Eliza Doolittle on Broadway opposite Richard Chamberlain in the 1993 revival of My Fair Lady, as well as having appeared in many other roles, including Tracy Lord in High Society in 1998 and Nancy in Oliver in 2012. She looked 20 years younger than her actual age, sporting the most beautiful long auburn curls. She appeared to me as a cross between Sondheim’s Witch from Into the Woods and Glinda from The Wizard of Oz. Between songs she spoke with quick wit and passion. She hails from Long Island and has been performing Christmas shows since she was four. She is about to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary with Patrick McEnroe of tennis fame. They have three teenage daughters; the oldest, Victoria, is leaving for college next year and the twins Diana and Juliet are two years younger. She evokeed her relationship with Patrick by singing a  gorgeous rendition of “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)” (Streisand/Paul Williams).

She dedicated “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” to her oldest daughter, who would be living her last year at home full time, which made it poignant and personal. She weaved a perfect balance of holiday cheer into her show with “Sleigh Ride,” Streisand’s arrangement of “White Christmas,” “The Christmas Waltz” (the original B side of Sinatra’s record of “White Christmas”,) and Mel Tormé and Robert Wells’ “The Christmas Song.” After singing a jazzy arrangement of that song that included great piano along with percussion brushes, she offered a parody version that imaged what the studio musicians might have said about the song being recorded during an L.A h eat wave: “Nut brown chests.” She chose a Broadway tune and added just the right amount of twang to “Hard Candy Christmas” (Carol Hall from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), and used her stool in a particularly sultry way thoughtout every lyric of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”

About three quarters of the way into her set list, she turned the stage over to her very talented musicians for “Oh Tannenbaum,” performed in a jazz style, while she left the stage and changed into a silver gown with a waistline poinsettia, white boa, and Santa hat. She lounged atop the piano, looking even younger and sexier as she giggled, “Mama’s still got it!”

Errico is multi-talented and serves as the Scenes from an Acting Life columnist for The New York Times.  She had the pleasure of writing the profile on Marilyn Maye in advance of May’es March 2023 sold-out Carnegie Hall concert. She saved one of her sweetest stories the introduce the Alan and Marilyn Bergman/Michel Legrand classic “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” Before she left L.A., she went to visit 98-year-old Alan Bergman. She shared an omelet with him, and reminisced about their mutual experiences with her mentor, Legrand. About the song, she now says, “the Bergmans answered their own question.”

Errico’s musical stories are crisp and clear, and she chose to perform every song using her bright Broadway belt. There was very little change in the range and color of her voice, and she did keep glancing at her music stand, though she seemed secure in all her lyrics. She thanked all the MIM staff and her musicians and praised the MIM space as the evening came to a close.

The 20th song of the night, “The Best Is Yet to Come” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh), was full of energy, especially when she picked up her jingle bells, coming full circle back to the start of her show. She seemed grateful for the standing ovation she received and invited the audience to sing along with her encore, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane) from the Judy Garland holiday film classic Meet Me in St. Louis. It was a delight to meet her on the stage of the MIM, and hopefully her first visit to Arizona will not be her last.  She did mention that her husband Patrick would like to find a winter place in a warm climate.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.