Check out the cabaret shows, chum


Entertaining series brings singers Marcovicci and Campbell to San Francisco for electric performances


It's about as basic as you can get: a piano and a singer -- actually two pianos and two singers and a couple of occasionally-used guitars, but you get the point.

That's all you need for pure magic, though, when the singers are Andrea Marcovicci and David Campbell. They breezed in and out of San Francisco's Alcazar Theatre over the weekend, and offered ample evidence that there are very good reasons to get out of the house and head downtown.

It's a matter of getting a jolt of entertainment electricity, or maybe experiencing lightning striking even more than twice in the same place. It's a matter of being a part of the sort of theatrical incandescence that happens only when big talent squeezes into a small place and lights up your little slice of the world like an Independence Day fireworks show.

This is the first time Marcovicci and Campbell have been paired in a show, and if Friday's opener is any indication at all, the two should be permanently joined at the hip, so they can spend the rest of their lives entertaining cabaret crowds together.

Their performance is part of Diane Dragone's "Hooray for Cabaret" series. For the past couple of years, the owner of San Francisco's Star Classics record store, has produced shows at both the Herbst Theater, and the more intimate Alcazar.

Dragone is one of those people who is intent on perpetuating cabaret entertainment, and has been using the "Hooray" series to make true believers of newcomers. And she's done it by creating exciting bills, such as the one this past weekend.

The Marcovicci/Campbell show was a classic example of the old pro and young phenomenon teaming up to create an explosively memorable show. Although she's still considered one of the new generation of cabaret singers, Marcovicci has established an enormous national following, and truly seems like an old pro next to the 25-year-old Campbell.

They explore all that in their first duet and onslaught of age jokes. But it quickly becomes apparent that age is not going to be a factor in the show. There is a real chemistry between the two performers that makes the duet portions of the show shine.

Campbell, an Australian, seems to benefit most from the teasing with Marcovicci on the duets and comedy bits. He does hugely well in his solo spot, but when the two of them sing together, Campbell blossoms into a deeper and more mature performer (although his parody of Mandy Patinkin, a definite solo spot that even has Marcovicci chuckling, is a highlight of the show).

But Marcovicci, single or duo, is a powerhouse. Her voice is lovely and fascinating, and there is no one who can handle a lyric better. She seems able to claim any song as her own with unique styling and phrasing that add increasingly complex colors to even familiar standards.

Telling the audience she appears so much in San Francisco (she'll be back Sept. 9 to star in 42nd Street Moon's "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"), that the audience has heard everything she knows. So her program featured songs somehow connected to Shakespeare, part of a project she is doing for a New York theater.

There were some sonnets and soliloquies set to music, but she also delivered tunes from "The Boys From Syracuse" and "Kiss Me Kate," so those who came with standards in mind weren't disappointed.

And then, when Campbell rejoined her onstage, the two were delightful in a couple of duets from "South Pacific," and closed the show with a funny encore of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."

It's amazing what you can do with a couple of pianos and a couple of singers. Next time you get the chance, give cabaret a shot -- feeling a little awe is good for you.

by Pat Craig - Times Staff Writer - June 1999