Maureen McGovern, 30 years as hit singer

By FREDERICK M. WINSHIP   |   March 14, 2003 at 5:04 PM
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NEW YORK, March 10 (UPI) -- Maureen McGovern, who has been called America's Julie Andrews, is marking the 30th anniversary of her first big hit as a singer with an evening of cabaret titled "Here's To Love and Life."

Appearing at Feinstein's at the Regency, the city's top cabaret venue, through Saturday, McGovern, presents a program of jazz favorites and pop standards in the spirited but ladylike manner she has in common with Andrews along with the well-groomed good looks and exquisite vocal production of exceptional range including a lovely coloratura.

The redhead dressed in a black velvet pants suit with a red-and-green cut velvet long coat recalls that in the spring of 1973, when she was 23, her recording of "The Morning After," the Academy Award-winning theme song from the movie "The Poseidon Adventure," climbed to the No. 1 position on the pop hit charts.

She immediately became a hot commodity and soon was making extensive tours with Mel Torme and later with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Her career spans recordings, concerts, appearances with symphony orchestras, the Broadway stage where she made her debut in Joseph Papp's memorable production of "The Pirates of Penzance," films, television, and radio. And, yes, she has had a solo recital at Carnegie Hall.

She recently made a 36-city tour with vocalist-guitarist John Pizzarelli and sang the role of Countess Aurelia in a production of Jerry Herman's revised version of his Broadway musical, "Dear World," at the Sundance Institute Theater in Utah. Her Grammy Award-nominated CD, "Maureen McGovern: The Music Never Ends," celebrating the lyrics of the husband and wife team Alan and Marilyn Bergman, will be reissued this week by Fynsworth Alley Records.

Her cabaret program includes a medley of Herman's show tunes including "Each Tomorrow Morning," "Before the Parade Passes By," and "One Person," along with songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchel Parish, and Jule Styne and the Betty Comden-Adolph Green team. She even resurrects an old Peggy Lee number, "Fever," delivered in a breathless style.

She is particularly good in such novelty numbers as "Scat/Diva" by lyricist Judy Barron to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, a purported conversation between an opera diva and her throat specialist, and "(If I Knew You Were Coming) I'd've Baked a Cake." And she gets all the comedy out of George and Ira Gershwin's "Stiff Upper Lip," giving their spoof on an old English custom a scat interpretation.

McGovern knows how to caress the lyrics of "Tenderly" and "My Funny Valentine" and mine the depths of meaning behind the lilting lyrics of "Star Dust," truly making each kiss and inspiration. She confesses that "If You Hadn't But You Did." a cynical view of love from Styne's musical, "Two on the Aisle," is one of her favorites and then shows the audience why this forgotten number should be dusted off more often.

Appropriately enough for the times we live in, she closes her show with the Al Kasha-Joel Hirschhorn song, "There's Got To Be a Morning After," commenting that it is her hope that "sanity and peace will prevail." That hits just the right note with her audiences judging from their appreciative applause for her and her musicians, Jeff Harris at the piano and Dick Sarpola on bass.

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