I first spoke with Tony nominee Melissa Errico in November 2015 on the heels of her premiering Sing The Silence at Joe's Pub. After that interview and show, I was delighted to receive Melissa's call again to discuss her newest show Funny! I'm a Woman with Children, making its debut at Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) this Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!
Melissa has always loved questions more than answers, and in her brand new show, she sings of the absurdities and ins and outs of marriage and motherhood. An acoustic evening featuring an eclectic range of songs from Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Lerner & Loewe, Michel Legrand, Laura Nyro, Rodgers & Sondheim, Johnny Mandel and Jeanine Tesori, as well as new signature material written for Melissa by Peter Mills and David Shire with lyrics by Adam Gopnik. Be prepared for a evening of nothing but Melissa simply with piano, voice and guitar putting her heart on her sleeve, asking us how we connect and bringing us all closer with her vivacious warmth and her soaring vocals.
1. It's so great to speak with you again! Last time we spoke, you were premiering your show Sing The Silence at Joe's Pub. How do you feel the show went? What future plans, if any, do you have for that show? I felt great about it. I think Adam Gopnik and I really accomplished a good first draft, and set in motion the idea we had to combine an autobiographical musical show with a kind of memory play, and a sometimes-quirky tale of self-discovery. If the novel Eat Pray Love used Italy, Paris and India for a woman to look for spiritual answers, I used musical theater wisdom, Sondheim and a large percentage of female songwriters for my searching; to ask broader questions about a woman's life and how to let our voices be heard. It was ultimately all about: a voice.
The people who came to Joe's Pub (and we had two amazing sold-out evenings!) seemed moved by the show more than anything I had ever created. It hit nerves, and it was really funny as well as personal and a tad unusual, I think! I was thrilled to share the stories of the Italian bohemians from my Italian family history - silent movies, frustrated opera singers, a Ziegfeld beauty, housewives, painters. It was rich in detail.
The National Sawdust performance space in Brooklyn invited us back last week (March 2016) to do a creative conversation about the writing of Sing The Silence so we were able to break it down to our goals, and inspirations and how the original songs were created by Scott Frankel, David Shire and Peter Mills.
We would like to do it again someday, and we are in talks with a few theaters for another presentation next season.
2. Now, you are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below with your new show Funny! I'm a Woman with Children. What are you looking forward to about this show? Everything! I'm on my 18th year of marriage, and I was thinking about the most romantic ideals, and the songs about falling in love, or what we remember of it. I have fallen deeper into Sondheim's wisdoms year by year, and I fell in love with "Marry Me a Little" and a show was born. I have no answers but I've chosen some very romantic, fun and sexy songs, as well poetic ones and question songs. I think it's going to be light-hearted and very focused on pure singing. I'm choosing songs that feel great vocally.
3. Since you call this show Funny! I'm a Woman with Children, what is the funniest thing to happen with you and your children? Funniest? Gosh, we are like a gaggle of fairies and a Fairy Mom. Bedtime, even last night, seems to be when the fairies get chatting and start getting a little hyper and hilarious and we all end up laughing ourselves to bed. It's kind of a daily joy, which can be maddening but also irresistible. Our resistance to bedtime is possibly a genetic trait. We want to party by 8pm, maybe it's the Broadway gene!
4. I'm in love with the ABC series The Goldbergs and the mother on that show is always embarrassing her kids. What is the most embarrassing thing your kids have felt you've done to them? I just asked them and they aren't sure. I think my kids are pretty free-spirited and don't get rattled much.
5. How do you feel motherhood has changed you both personally and career wise? Well, I love being a mother and I've had to sacrifice a lot of concentration, I guess, though kids are so consuming as well as fulfilling that you don't think of it, or doubt. It's not been something I had any real control over. I've just taken care of my family day by day, and always tried to stay in best condition for work - getting fit after pregnancies, looking after my voice, teaching everyone to sleep well (once they fall asleep, they are amazing sleepers!), auditioning and staying in touch with my skills. I have done as much as I can, and worked almost every month (at something!) since I became a Mom. Sometimes it was a workshop, or symphony work, or Broadway (I played "Betty" in White Christmas while I had three children under age 3 at home)...As well as guesting on TV, or working in small scale productions (like a terrific musical Between Heaven & Earth I did three times with Kathleen Chalfant & a rotating cast of handsome and wonderful Thomas Jeffersons: Jonathan Cake, Rob Campbell and Ezra Barnes)...I have made a deal with life that I would keep many career projects going at once, and always have a script on my desk and songs to learn. I've had to stay open to a wide variety of work, so if one thing ended, I would always have a handful more ahead. Gone are the days of being single-minded! I've learned (figuratively) to be a juggler.
6. What is something you that you have learned from motherhood that you would want other mothers to know? That they can call me and complain anytime. Then we'll laugh. Eventually.
7. Also in this new show, you also talk about the ins and outs of marriage. What is one secret to your successful marriage that you don't reveal in the show? I think I'll share anything I can -- in music -- on April 1 & 2. I might be more of the school of "talk less, smile more" to use Lin Miranda and Hamilton for a quote. People probably forget the core of romance that began a marriage. It takes work to never lose sight of the goodness. It's so easy to just b*tch forward.
8. If you could have had any celebrity mother growing up, who would you have liked to be your mom? If you could have been the mother to any child star, who would you want to raise? A celebrity Mom...? Ummm, I liked The Partridge Family and always thought I might do okay on that bus. As for child stars, I might have a few here so let's check back periodically. (We do like Shirley Temple).
10. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent everyday. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent every day? I think it's time we New Yorkers took more advantage of this great city we live in. I want to ice skate more, see more shows, go to lectures (like Adam Gopnik's new free series at Lincoln Center), find live music experiences, meditate, watch unusual films, and take flamenco. It's all right here and we can have so much more fun!"
Adam, thanks for this interview!! Come to Feinstein's/54 Below and let's have some fun. I want this to not be a big deal -- just a cabaret night and an hour of fabulous melody. I feel better putting music and love into the Manhattan air. You know it will be musically eclectic -- Joni Mitchell, a Roberta Flack cover, Brazilian songs, Sondheim, Jerry Herman, a song that was cut from My Fair Lady (yes!!), as well as a gorgeous song from Bridges of Madison County. I'm even doing a Legrand song I have never sung before!! I'll bring you my heart.
Melissa Errico, Tony Award nominee, has starred on Broadway, on network television and film and is an accomplished recording artist and musical concert performer. She can currently be seen as the character "June" on Showtime's acclaimed new drama Billions starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Last season, Melissa played the recurring role of "Catherine" on the Stephen Soderbergh show The Knick for Cinemax, and had guest arcs on Blue Bloods and The Good Wife. Her Broadway credits include starring roles in My Fair Lady, Dracula, White Christmas, High Society, Les Misérables, Anna Karenina and Amour for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Tony Award. She starred in Stephen Sondheim's Passion and Sunday in the Park with George. She has released three studio albums: Blue Like That (EMI Records) produced by Arif Mardin, Legrand Affair (Ghostlight) produced by Phil Ramone, and Lullabies & Wildflowers (VMG/Universal Records) produced by Rob Mathes; and a recent 3-song digital single More Lullabies & Wildflowers to benefit her charity. Through everything, she stays devoted to her loving family including her husband, tennis player Patrick McEnroe, their three young daughters, and one Yorkie!