Melissa Ericco Sings Her Way into the Holiday Spirit

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Melissa Errico. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

Within a minute of picking up the phone, Melissa Errico is already singing.

“I actually have this funny parody lyric, which I haven’t told anybody,” she says as a precursor. “But I’ll sing it to you.”

And without any warmup, the Tony Award nominee — who has graced Broadway stages in “White Christmas,” “My Fair Lady” and “Amour” — bursts into song, to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music”:

“Bay Street means summer and theater by starlight,

Wonderful plays and soft ice cream by starlight,

Too broke for East Hampton, I rent in the Springs,

But this place is one of my favorite things.”

Her high note fizzled into laughter, at home in the aforementioned rustic cottage in Springs, where she will spend the winter with her family after quarantining for the week leading up to her virtual holiday concert, “Season For Joy,” at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, available for streaming starting Thursday night.

Accompanied by jazz pianist Tedd Firth, Errico — who is a natural storyteller — will spin a few tales throughout the evening, from why the greatest Christmas songs are always recorded in July, and the reason they’re almost exclusively penned by Jewish-American songwriters, to how the winter holidays continue to unite, even in the most difficult of times.

“We have had so much fun with this concert, even in this really hard time,” Errico said. “My husband had the coronavirus when this thing first started in March. I was a cabaret singer, but on the road, so I never make dinner for my family, and suddenly he has coronavirus. We isolated him in the basement because we didn’t know where to put him, and I was making three meals a day for everyone — and I didn’t know how to cook!”

She had no choice but to figure it out, and turned her endeavor into an online cooking show in the process, she said, complete with a chef’s hat and no shortage of mishaps. “I had to learn how to not be afraid of, like, a chicken,” she said. “I had to figure out how to make that look like food.”

While her husband, former tennis star and ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe, has made a full recovery, the journey has stuck with Errico, who will perform “I Can Cook, Too,” a song by Betty Comden and Adolph Green — she portrayed the former in her 1997 musical debut at Bay Street, “Make Someone Happy” — during the holiday show.

“This is truly homemade. This is truly real. There’s no assistance from Hollywood in this,” Errico said. “This is theater and these are theater people and a cabaret/jazz theater vocalist putting together a holiday show, with her family, all using technology.”

Performed from the Sag Harbor stage, to a physically empty theater, Errico tapped her husband and children for cameo performances, as well as her Hamptons-based father, who is an orthopedic surgeon and so much more.

“My father used to play Christmas carols with me,” Errico said. “In the 1970s, my dad’s a pianist and my mother is very, just, fun, and she used to call people in the neighborhood and ask anyone if they had a piano and if they were gonna be home later. So we used to go to people’s houses, somewhat unannounced, and we would just walk into your house and my dad would sit down and I would start singing.”

To recreate the festive imposition, Errico has “beamed him” into the Bay Street show, she explained, spliced with a Super 8 recording of one such occasion. She is five years old at the time, singing her heart out.

“At one point, we just kind of realized that we were creating a 1960s television special,” Errico said of the show. “There’s a great tradition of Italian-Americans doing this — Perry Como, Andy Williams. It’s the new Italian-American, 2020 television special with the Errico-McEnroe family. We walked into something that’s a tradition that I didn’t know a lot about until I started doing it. It’s so natural.”

The same could be said of Tony Award-winning opera singer Paulo Szot, who immediately jumped on board for the concert when Errico reached out to him on Facebook. “Pandemic rules,” she said of contacting the “Brazilian hunk” via social media. “All the women in the world can thank me after my concert.”

Andrew Lippa, who wrote the Tony Award-nominated music and lyrics for the Broadway musical, “The Addams Family,” is also showing up for the festivities. He penned an original song for Errico’s show, which she took on during her quarantine.

“The days I isolated myself, the majority of them were spent in my pajamas at a binder,” she said. “All the lyrics for all the songs were hard, and I was learning the parodies, writing the parodies, and then learning about Christmas music.”

The concert embraces Hanukkah music, too, including the parody “[I’m Spending] Hanukkah in Santa Monica,” as well as “Ner Li,” a traditional song about the menorah candles that Errico performs in Hebrew, she explained, after singing a few bars in English over the phone.

“The idea that in December, which are the darkest days of the year — and this is maybe the darkest time any of us have lived through — why were people writing about white Christmases and stars, and why is there so much beautiful Hanukkah music and lighting of candles?” she said. “In this time of year, people are looking for the light. And then you look for ways to keep it lit. That’s what we all have to keep doing.”

Melissa Errico will present “Season For Joy,” a virtual holiday concert, on Thursday, December 10, at 8 p.m. from the Bay Street Theater stage in Sag Harbor. Tickets are $25, which allow for streaming access on one device. The concert will also be available on demand through the end of the month. For more information, visit baystreet.org.

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