NEW YORK, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Andrea Marcovicci, one of foremost cabaret artists of the day, has kicked off a "Lots of Loesser" year saluting the prolific career of composer-lyricist Frank Loesser with a cabaret concert at the Algonquin Hotel's legendary Oak Room that sets a new standard for biographical entertainment.
Loesser (1910-1969) was the first American lyricist to become a major composer for both Broadway and Hollywood. So succinct were his lyrics, so striking his imagery, and so catchy his melodies that they gave rise to a showbiz pun that "Loesser is really more." Marcovicci has taken a line from one of his numbers from "Guys and Dolls" as the title of her show, "If I Were a Bell (I'd Be Ringing)."
Marcovicci's appearance at the Oak Room through Jan. 17 coincides with the publication of "The Complete Lyrics of Frank Loesser" (Alfred A. Knopf, 271 pages, $49.95), written by music critic Robert Kimball and music theater specialist Steve Nelson, producer of the Library of Congress' Songwriter Series. It includes the words of 750 compositions by Loesser beginning with three songs he copyrighted in 1929.
Loesser wrote lyrics either for his own music or the music of such composers as Jule Styne, Arthur Schwartz, Hoagy Carmichael, Burton Lane, and Jimmy McHugh. He won Tony Awards for best Broadway musical for "Guys and Dolls" and "How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" and a Pulitzer Prize for the latter as well.
The book and Marcovicci's new show has aroused fresh interest in Loesser's work and a production of his last and never fully staged musical comedy, "Senor Discretion Himself" has been scheduled by the Washington Arena Stage, opening April 9. This will be followed by a major revival of "Guys and Dolls" at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N. J., in June.
Also in preparation is a stage musical based on one of Loesser's 100 Hollywood films, "Hans Christian Anderson," with a new book by Maury Yeston, and a career documentary for American television. A revival of "Guys and Dolls" for the British stage is under discussion with Frank Loesser Enterprises, headed by the composer's widow, Jo Sullivan Loesser, a singer who starred in Loesser's "The Most Happy Fella" on Broadway.
Marcovicci, whose career also has embraced stage and screen, is the master story teller of cabaret and has in the past paid homage to musical comedy's Gertrude Lawrence, cabaret queen Mabel Mercer, and torch singer Ruth Etting. Much of the material she has selected for her Oak Room show comes from the four dozen standards that Loesser contributed to the Great American Songbook as well as some less familiar works.
A brunette beauty with an incandescent personality, Marcovicci gives a lively performance, engaging her audience with direct eye contact when she isn't hoisting herself up to sing atop the grand piano played by accompanist Shelly Markham. She outlines the salient points of Loesser's career and spices her narrative with amusing anecdotes without the schoolmarmish approach that flawed her Gerty Lawrence show last season.
The voice is a light soprano with a haunting quaver and an enviable ability to float a tone. As a stylist she has incomparable flair that suits Loesser's songs such as "Baby, It's Cold Outside," the number from the film "Neptune's Daughter" that won its composer an Oscar in 1949. She uses it as a closing number, a logical follow-up to "Two Sleepy People."
Other highlights are renditions of "On a Slow Boat To China," "Kiss the Boys Goodbye," "I Don't Want to Walk Without You," "Heart and Soul," "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year," "Joey, Joey, Joey," and "I Believe in You." All are lodged in the collective American memory that bridges the generations, just waiting for a brilliant artist like Marcovicci, who has been called the Maria Callas of cabaret, to bring them to vivid life.