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Marieann Meringolo brings drama to Legrand songs at Feinstein’s

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By Lucy Komisar

Marieann Meringolo’s rich mellow slightly jazzy alto presents Michel Legrand’s romantically charged music with almost theatrical intensity. Legrand, famous for music for such films as “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, “”The Thomas Crown Affair,” and “Yentl,” needs someone like Meringolo to provide the dramatic interpretation of his muse.

Marieann Meringolo, photo Alina Wilczynski.

Her “After The Rain” – “I love the quiet after the rain with you” – creates a picture that is almost cinematic, with sound that seems stereophonic. Her “How do you keep the music playing” and “I will wait for you” are romantic stuff. It’s all romance, hope — you can visualize the films. (The latter the iconic “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.”)

Every song has drama. And to make it work Meringolo holds the longest notes you can hear in cabaret. Her technique is clearly apparent in “The Windmills of Your Mind,” dealing with an erotically charged game of chess in The Thomas Crown Affair, about an elegant bank thief and the woman who investigates him. I got the sense of being in an echo chamber she controlled.

I was fascinated when she told of how influenced she was by Barbra Streisand. You can see that line in the the slow moody melodic sounds, the sophisticated poetry, the rich long notes. She is working in a fine tradition.

This production features Doyle Newmyer, piano and arranger, Boots Maleson on bass, and Brian Woodruff on drums. Eric Michael Gillett directed.

“You Must Believe in Spring.” Performed by Marieann Meringolo. Music by Michel Legrand, most lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, others by Norman Gimbel and Johnny Mercer. Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, 540 Park Ave at 61st Street, New York City. 212-339-4095. Feb 26, 2012 and following 3 Sundays. Review on New York Theatre-Wire site.

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