Melissa Errico is someone who seems to be in perpetual motion. The Tony Award-nominated Broadway star, cabaret singer and actress moves seamlessly between television, film, theater and concert stages around the world.
Even at the height of the pandemic, Errico barely slowed down or lost time. With her collaborator Adam Gopnik, she curated a series of film noir classics at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) in New York. “I was so fascinated by the style of these films and their musical themes,” she says. This passion led the singer (Errico) and lyricist (Gopnik) to organize three concerts combining music and conversation (which were also broadcast live from Florence Gould Hall in Manhattan in 2020).
On Wednesday, May 11, Melissa Errico will perform live at Feinstein’s/54 Below in Manhattan, to celebrate the release of her new album of black songs, out of the dark, melodies tinged with sensuality and mystery.
Forbes.com was thrilled to hang out with this legendary performer to talk about the confluence of her work and her travels.
With engagements around the world, how many trips do you typically take each year? How has this been affected by the pandemic?
Melissa Errico: Nothing is really typical anymore. Before the pandemic, my international concert career had really started to take off. I traveled to London twice a year for 3-5 night singing engagements and performed in Paris two to three times a year. In fact, I was supposed to do a first major concert in Paris in June 2020, which hasn’t been rescheduled yet.
Last month I went to London and was the first performer on the “Americans in London” series at the beautiful Crazy Coqs nightclub (where Lilias White and Billy Stritch are currently performing). I had been there a few times before, singing Sondheim (one of my musical obsessions) and releasing my album “Sondheim Sublime”.
In the two years of the pandemic, a tribute to my close friend and musical mentor, Michel Legrand, has been rescheduled twice after his passing in 2019. In November 2021, Stephen Sondheim had passed away and suddenly some of my Legrand tributes were changed as homages to Sondheim, and I found myself changing scripts, dresses and moods, because the composers really couldn’t be more different! (One is incredibly romantic and sensual, and the other edgy, intelligent, articulate and emotional, if not exactly swooning.)
As you can see, it’s hard to say more about what I “typically” do because planning is now more at the last minute, and there’s kind of a bottleneck where two years of work comes back , and cause a kind of atypical madness .
I traveled the west coast, back to Florida, back to the west coast, then to London, then back to Florida, then on to Erie, Pennsylvania. Since the end of February, I’ve already been to Vegas, Indianapolis, LA, San Francisco and Palm Beach and it’s going to be a busy summer.
Overall, if you pay close attention, it’s not exactly a graceful flight model. So, I try not to be very careful and live a lot from moment to moment. This is something that has changed since the pandemic. I think we’ve all learned not to look too far ahead and expect anything to be predictable. I’m even more comfortable than ever with being spontaneous! Even though I’ve only played around 40 concerts since September, I’ve had nine pianists to juggle and there are rehearsals and a repertoire that changes all the time.
When traveling for pleasure (if any), what types of trips do you usually enjoy doing?
I still plan to go back to some places, but I’m sad to say I really didn’t! Hobbies usually come to me at the last minute, and then I find myself deeply committed. Yes, I know how to relax and completely become a sea nymph!
I guess I would say that my greatest travel experiences have been in small coastal villages in Italy, like Positano and Santa Margherita, or on Greek islands, like Kufenisia and Naxos. Greece gave me my most amazing private vacation where time seemed to stand still and I lost track of time. (Of course, I was younger then and had fewer responsibilities!)
I now have three teenage daughters and it was a pleasure to take them to Milan, Venice, Florence and Paris. I want them to see and feel the history of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages – the castles, the cathedrals, the palaces, the paintings, the great sculptures – all these, my passions since university.
My soul loves the idea of doing nothing, of being quiet in a beautiful little aesthetic and earthy Greek village. But the reality is that I have three children and as soon as I have the opportunity, I will go to a new place with them and for them. Now that they’re older, they’re curious about mom’s love of all things Mediterranean.
Do you have a favorite gourmet destination?
I love eating in Venice: I love Locanda Montin and thought the best food in Venice was at Corte Sconta, near the Arsenale. The pizza in Venice is surprisingly good too, the Quattro Stagioni style in particular.
What type of “packer” are you? Are you preparing for all eventualities or are you traveling light?
I can’t pack more than I can carry or roll, so it’s a fine line.
I have a huge bag that I divide into two parts. My fantasy life: dresses, shoes, glamour, hair extensions, curling irons, static protection spray, costumes, accessories, jewelry – and my real self-training clothes and rehearsal basics.
I developed a “travel look” for the sake of simplicity, so I look decent on airplanes but I can also go to rehearsals in any city and work hard but not in sweatpants. I have two pairs of comfy black pants and a pair of 70s high waisted jeans. I have a cute pair of platform fashion sneakers, navy blue with a white bottom. I am traveling with two blouses and a yellow knit sweater vest, and three scarves, one of which is cashmere.
When I get home, I change my blouse and pants. I have about six favorite blouses and four spare pants, although I have two favorites. It’s kind of a rotation. In my hand luggage, I carry my music. I never part with my music, my script and my laptop. I think I can replace everything else if something was missing. But I need my songs.
What essentials do you always carry in your bag when traveling by plane?
Water, coconut water, vocal mister, manuka honey lozenges – all for the voice – and an eye mask, airpods, laptop, novel (I read the newspaper by Anais Nin, Fire), and moisturizing face cream. I always bring a cashmere shawl, which was a gift from a friend. It can become a pillow or just keep my throat warm. I always have a phone charger.
Are there any things you tend to forget?
I used to forget my earrings and go to my concerts and have to buy something at the airport to sing. I also used to forget my Spanx and that’s not fun because you can’t always find that kind of thing at a moment’s notice. I also tend to forget my styling gel. With curly hair, it’s not pretty without styling gel.
Do you do a lot of solo travel? If so, any advice for women traveling alone?
I travel alone and it’s frustrating to see how curious people sometimes find that a woman is alone. I have an unexpected tip: I travel with a ukulele on my back because I sing with a ukulele. I find it kind of seems to disarm people and they tend to smile when they see it and ask me questions about it. Maybe a good trick is to buy a ukulele bag and use it as a backpack. For some reason, it seems to charm people and make them happy. I can’t explain exactly why!
You wrote an article for the New York Times on running a themed cruise. Did you enjoy the experience at sea?
I liked it because it was island hopping in the Caribbean and my kids, who were much smaller then (and not even that long ago), got to see me sing on a beautiful stage at sea. They even played with me. It was a stormy night at sea, so the performance was memorable because I was thrown left and right erratically as the boat rocked. This created a very dizzying performance!
My husband and daughters met a boatload of fun, delightful, and witty Broadway legends that I’m good friends with, like Marc Kudisch, Seth Rudetsky, Judy Kuhn, and the late Rebecca Luker. Our days were spent exploring places like St. Barts, with an absolutely amazing day of ziplining over the rainforests of St. Lucia.
Where will you go next?
My God, I don’t remember. Let me think. I’ve wandered so much that I haven’t yet settled into my home. There are open suitcases at the foot of my bed right now. One of my tips, at the busiest times, is not to unpack completely but to keep my toiletries in clear bags, and a few basic items (like my performance shoes, jewelry, and a small bag of satin underwear) sitting in a suitcase on the floor.
I take a short break after running to the airports. A big push just happened. Yes, I actually have gigs in New York and New Jersey (and I’m filming a special on PBS on April 21 which will air later this year), so this month I’ll be able to work mostly from home.
I’m excited to have my CD release party on May 11th in New York. I have a new musical reading at the end of May in London, a few concerts at home in June, then my children are going to ballet camp, and the eldest will go to Wimbledon with my husband. When they hit the tennis road, I’m going to Palm Springs and Los Angeles to sing Sondheim.
A port schedule sometimes, but I’m lucky to have it. The pandemic has made us all aware of our many retrograde blessings.
Note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Some of Melissa Errico’s upcoming must-see performances:
- May 11 at Feinstein/54 below
- July 1-2 at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in Los Angeles
- July 22 and 23 at The Art House in Provincetown
- July 25 at the Cotuit Center for Performing Arts
- July 27 at the Southampton Cultural Center
- Sondheim tribute concert on November 18 at Carnegie Hall