Melissa Errico has been one of the toasts of Broadway ever since starring as Eliza Doolittle in the 1993 Broadway revival of "My Fair Lady." A best actress Tony nomination followed 10 years later for the Michel LeGrand musical "Amour" and she won raves as Cosette in the national tour of "Les Miserables."
But deep down, the Manhasset-raised performer has longed to channel her inner Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth and play a slinky femme fatale. Her chance finally came with her latest album "Out of the Dark: The Film Noir Project," in which she performs such torchy numbers as "Again," "Farewell, My Lovely" and, of course, the theme from "Laura." She'll perform "Laura," done to a Cuban beat, on July 27 as part of the Southampton Cultural Center’s Concerts in the Park Series. Titled "Broadway Baby," the show will be a mix of Broadway melodies of humorous stories.
Errico, 52, recently chatted about why she loves performing on Long Island, immersing herself in film noir during the pandemic and the invaluable singing lesson she got from Stephen Sondheim.
How excited are you about being able to perform at Southampton?
WHAT "Broadway Baby" concert starring Melissa Errico
WHEN | WHERE 6:30 p.m. July 27, Agawam Park, 51 Pond Lane, Southampton
INFO Free: scc-arts.org
I always love performing on Long Island. This show is going to be filled with a lot of songs people know but I also love peppering it with witty stories and anecdotes. It has a lot of percussion and is probably the more escapist of all the shows I've done. It’s all about the joy that’s been left behind the past few years.
I'm a huge fan of film noir, so I am fascinated by your "Out of the Dark" album. How did that come about?
Michel Le Grand was very much on my mind at the start of the pandemic. My first concert for Michel LeGrand's legacy and tribute was on March 9, 2020 and my first New York show on LeGrand was scheduled at Lincoln Center on March 12. And then that whole tour got canceled So during the pandemic I was approached by the French Institute/Alliance Française and we got the idea, well why don’t we do these French Franco-American scenes in a concert hall without an audience and with cameras. We did a three-part series originally called "Love, Sex and Murder." Then we softened it to "Love and Desire." By the time we got to the third concert that was the one that featured the film noir music,
So you did then spend many hours watching film noir?
The project aired in May 2021 and that was after three or four months of watching film noir. So I watched "Laura," "Double Indemnity," "The Maltese Falcon." I watching and rewatching and I was realizing that these movies are made about the enigma of life and feelings spiraling out of control and experiencing a feeling of isolation. They're philosophical pieces, they’re not gangster movies. They’re odd, they’re enigmatic, they’re European. … As I was watching them during the pandemic and I was thinking this feels like what we're experiencing now. There’s a fate you can’t control. I started to see the parallels. Also, I loved the clothes, I love the music of these movies. I found it so illuminating and a mirror of our times.
So if you could be in a film noir today, which of those "dames" would you like to be?
Jane Greer in "Out of the Past," who was someone with a dark past. Or maybe Rita Hayworth in "Gilda", who was gorgeous and such an enigmatic character.
You did an unusual Christmas special at Bay Street Theatre there last year. What was that like?
During the pandemic did a whole Perry Como-like special livestreamed from Bay Street Theatre. I started writing anecdotes about home and family and included songs. I also had some Brazilian opera singers come in and do a duet on Zoom. It was a little out of sync but it was just amazing and so silly. It was like the Andy Williams show or the reincarnation of Perry Como. I learned from the pandemic that I like entertaining and I don’t care if I have to do it by myself.
I know you'll be at Feinstein's/54 Below with Billy Stritch Aug. 4-6. Do you have any other projects you can talk about?
I'll be doing the 40th anniversary tribute to Stephen Sondheim with the New York Pops on Nov. 18 at Carnegie Hall, and I've never played there before.
You worked with Sondheim and he also was a close friend. Do you have a special memory you'd like to share?
Early on, he said to me "You like being an actress, but you also like what I call being a girl singer." And by girl singer, you think Barbara Cook and Peggy Lee. He taught me how to sing the music and to grow the music. He said sing the song the way I wrote it first then play it solo [with her pianist Ted Fisk] and then let the jazz band take over and then you become the girl singer. He wanted me to present the song he wrote it first before I messed with it. He was very encouraging to me.