Melissa Errico is someone who appears to be in perpetual motion. The Tony Award-nominated Broadway star, cabaret singer, and actress moves seamlessly between television, film, theater, and concert stages across the globe.
Even during the height of the pandemic, Errico barely slowed down or wasted any time. Along with collaborator Adam Gopnik, she curated a series of film noir classics at New York’s French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF). “I was so deeply fascinated by the style of these films and their musical themes,” she says. That passion led the chanteuse (Errico) and lyricist (Gopnik) to stage three concerts that coupled music with conversation (which were also livestreamed from Florence Gould Hall in Manhattan in 2020).
On Wednesday, May 11, Melissa Errico will be appearing live at Feinstein’s/54 Below in Manhattan, celebrating the release of her new album of noir songs, Out of the Dark, melodies tinged with sensuality and mystery.
Forbes.com was delighted to snag some time with this legendary performer to talk about the confluence of her work and her travels.
With engagements all over the world, how much travel do you typically do each year? How has that been affected by the pandemic?
Melissa Errico: Nothing is really typical anymore. Before the pandemic, my international concert career had really begun to take off. I was traveling to London twice a year for 3- to 5-night singing engagements and was performing in Paris two to three times a year. In fact, I was scheduled to make a major concert debut in Paris in June 2020—which has yet to be rescheduled.
Last month, I went to London and was the first artist in 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” there.
Over the two pandemic years, a tribute to my close friend and musical mentor, Michel Legrand, was rescheduled twice after his passing in 2019. By November 2021, Stephen Sondheim had passed away and suddenly some of my Legrand tributes were changed to Sondheim tributes, and I have found myself switching scripts, dresses, and mood, as the composers really could not be more different! (One is swooningly romantic and sensual, and the other edgy, smart, articulate, and emotional, if not exactly swooningly so.)
As you can see, it’s hard to say what I “typically” do anymore because scheduling is now happening more at the last minute, and there is a kind of bottleneck where two years of work is coming back, and causing a kind of atypical craziness.
I have traveled to the West Coast, back to Florida, to the West Coast again, then to London, then back to Florida, and then up to Erie, Pennsylvania. Since the end of February, I’ve already been to Vegas, Indianapolis, LA, San Francisco, and Palm Beach and it is going to be a busy summer.
All in all, if you pay close attention to it, it isn’t exactly a graceful flight pattern. So, I try not to pay very close attention and live very much moment-to-moment. This is something that has changed since the pandemic. I think we all learned to not look ahead too much, and not expect anything to be predictable. I am even more comfortable than ever being spontaneous! While I may have only performed in some 40 concerts since September, I have had nine pianists to juggle and there are rehearsals and repertoire all changing all the time.
When you travel for leisure (if there is such a thing), what types of trips do you ordinarily like to take?
I always intend to return to certain places, but I am sad to say I really haven’t done that! Leisure usually comes upon me as a last-minute thing, and then I find myself deeply committed. Yes, I do know how to relax and completely become a sea nymph!
I guess I would say my greatest travel experiences have been in little coastal villages in Italy, like Positano and Santa Margherita, or on Greek Islands, like Kufenisia and Naxos. Greece has given me my most incredible private vacations where time seemed to stand still and I lost my sense of time. (Of course, I was younger then and had less responsibility!)
I have three teenage daughters now, and it has been a thrill to take them to Milan, Venice, Florence, and to Paris. I want them to see and feel the Renaissance and medieval history—castles, cathedrals, palaces, paintings, the great sculptures—all of these, passions of mine since college.
My soul likes the idea of doing nothing, being quiet in some beautiful aesthetic and earthy little Greek village. But the reality is that I have three children and any chance I get, I will go somewhere new with them and for them. Now that they are older, they are curious about Mom’s love of all things Mediterranean.
Do you have a favorite foodie destination?
I like eating in Venice: I love Locanda Montin and I thought the best food in Venice was at Corte Sconta, down near the Arsenale. The pizza in Venice is surprisingly good, too, the Quattro Stagioni style especially.
What type of “packer” are you? Do you prepare for every contingency or travel light?
I can’t pack more than I can carry or roll, so it’s a fine line.
I have one massive bag that I divide into two parts. My fantasy life: gowns, shoes, glamor, hair extensions, curling irons, static guard spray, costume pieces, props, jewels—and my real self workout clothes and rehearsal basics.
I have developed a “travel look” for simplicity’s sake, so I look decent on planes but can also go to rehearsals in any city and work hard but not be in sweatpants. I have two pairs of comfortable black dress slacks and one pair of high-waisted 70s jeans. I have a cute pair of platform fashion sneakers, navy with a white bottom. I travel with two blouses and a yellow knit sweater vest, and three scarves, one cashmere.
When I return home, I switch blouses and pants. I have about six favorite blouses and four backup pants, even if there are two I prefer. It’s a sort of rotation. In my carry-on, I carry my music. I never part from my music and my script and my laptop. I figure I can replace everything else if anything went missing. But I need my songs.
What are the essentials you always take in your tote when you fly?
Water, coconut water, voice mister, manuka honey lozenges—all this for the voice—and an eye mask, air pods, laptop, a novel (I am reading Anais Nin’s diary, Fire), and face moisturizer. I always bring a cashmere shawl, which was a gift from a friend. It can become a pillow, or it just keeps my throat warm. I always have a phone charger.
Are there any items you tend to forget?
I used to forget my earrings and would get to my concerts and have to buy something at the airport to sing in. I also used to forget my Spanx and that is not fun, because you can’t always find that kind of thing at a moment’s notice. I also tend to forget my hair gel. With curly hair, it isn’t pretty without hair gel.
Do you do a lot of solo travel? If so, any advice for women traveling by themselves?
I do travel alone and it is frustrating to see how sometimes people find it curious that a woman is alone. I do have unexpected advice: I travel with a ukulele on my back because I sing with a ukulele. I find it somehow seems to disarm people and they tend to smile when they see it and ask me 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 exactly explain why!
You penned an article for the New York Times about performing on a themed cruise. Did you enjoy the experience at sea?
I did enjoy it because it was a trip from island to island in the Caribbean and my children—who were then much smaller (and it wasn’t even that long ago)—got to see me sing on a beautiful stage at sea. They even performed with me. It was a stormy night at sea, so the performance was memorable because I was sent left and right erratically as the boat swayed. It created a very giddy performance!
My husband and daughters got to meet a boat full of funny, delightful, witty Broadway legends with whom I am good friends—such as Marc Kudisch, Seth Rudetsky, Judy Kuhn, and the late Rebecca Luker. Our days were spent exploring places like St. Barths, with an absolutely extraordinary day of ziplining over tropical forests in St Lucia.
Where will you be traveling to next?
Gosh, I can’t remember. Let me think. I have been so peripatetic that I haven’t settled at home yet. There are suitcases open at the foot of my bed at the moment. One of my tricks, at busiest times, is to not completely unpack but to keep my toiletries in clear bags, and some basics (like my performance shoes, jewelry, and a little satin bag of undergarments) sitting in a suitcase on the floor.
I am on a little break from running to airports. A big push just happened. Yes, I actually have concerts in New York and New Jersey (and I am filming a PBS special on April 21st which will air later this year), so this month I am going to be able to work essentially from home.
I’m thrilled to have my CD release party on May 11th in New York City. I have a new musical reading in late May in London, some concerts back home in June, and then my children are going to ballet camp, and the eldest will go to Wimbledon with my husband. The moment they hit the road to tennis, I am going to Palm Springs and LA to sing Sondheim.
A wearing schedule at times, but I’m lucky to have it. The pandemic made us all aware of our many backward blessings.
Note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Some of Melissa Errico’s upcoming, not-to-be-missed performances:
- May 11 at Feinstein’s/54 Below
- July 1-2 at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in Los Angeles
- July 22-23 at The Art House in Provincetown
- July 25 at Cotuit Center for the Performing Arts
- July 27 at Southampton Cultural Center
- November 18 concert tribute to Sondheim at Carnegie Hall