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Cabaret queen Marieann Meringolo

The mere mention of New York City, Broadway and cabaret conjures a world of glitz, entertainment and glamor. Perhaps that’s why, despite the ascent of digital forms of entertainment, the cabaret tradition has continued to thrive in what Frank Sinatra so proudly sang about as the “city that doesn’t sleep.”

As much as anyone, Marieann Meringolo represents this intimate art form.

Meringolo’s name has appeared on the marquee at countless NYC venues, including the Friars Club, the Rainbow Room, Feinstein’s/54 Below, the Hammerstein Ballroom and Central Park’s Tavern on the Green. Her vocal talents are often compared to another Big Apple icon, Barbara Streisand, and Meringolo has built a reputation as a stellar interpreter of her songbook as well as those of many legendary Broadway composers.

Nowhere is this more evident than in her most recent project, “Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, the songs of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.” Known for penning such landmark melodies as “Windmills of My Mind” and “The Way We Were,” the gifted songwriting couple takes center stage in Meringolo’s review, which was nominated by BroadwayWorld.com for “Best Tribute Show.”

If anyone knows New York’s entertainment scene, it’s Meringolo.

“I grew up in an Italian-American household in Brooklyn,” Meringolo says from her home in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “My mother spoke Italian before she knew English. She spoke in a Sicilian dialect, and I have fond memories of she and my grandmother and great-aunt sitting around the kitchen table in Brooklyn, speaking in Italian.”

While Meringolo grew up listening to “everything from opera to Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis,” there were no professional musicians in her family, and she didn’t have any formal musical training. Instead, she was encouraged by her music teachers and friends at school.

“When I was 14, I sang ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’ at the school talent show, and the reaction was amazing,” Meringolo says. “I was this shy kid who nobody paid attention to, then I became ‘the kid with a voice.’”

Shortly after graduating from high school, Meringolo began entertaining the summer visitors on Long Island.

“They were small shows, just me and a piano, but it was there that I fell in love with the cabaret setting,” Meringolo says.

Her biggest exposure came when she appeared several times on The Joe Franklin Show. A legend in the New York area, Franklin’s show ran for almost 40 years, and guests included six U.S. presidents, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen. Meringolo is also strongly identified with an even bigger NYC legend, Streisand, whose material is a major part of Meringolo’s shows.

Yet while few attempt it, and many fall ridiculously flat while trying to cover Streisand’s material, Meringolo’s power, range, depth and precise vocalization of each musical syllable makes her, if not equal to, at least worthy of covering the legendary singer’s songs.

While New York critics are known for savaging performers, they seem to agree. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Cabaret Scene, Theatre Wire, and the Times Square Chronicles have not only started but continue spreading the news about Meringolo.

REVIEW

“Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, the Songs of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Recorded Live at the Iridium.

While many modern singers see a song and its lyrics as a showcase for their voice, Marieann Meringolo sees her voice as a showcase for a song and lyrics.

That talent shines through in her latest CD, “Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, the Songs of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.” It helps, of course, that the Bermans have written some of the most memorable lyrics of their generation, the most notable of which is the first cut on the album, “The Way We Were.” Many try but few manage to come close to Streisand’s interpretation. With a timbre, vocal range and syllabication remarkably close to Streisand’s, Meringolo makes every precious word register in your heart. The same can be said for her rendition of “It Might Be You,” as Meringolo brings out the poetry and romantic idealism of a song as pure as love itself.

Songs like “Nice and Easy” and “That Face” are done in medley style, in keeping with the cabaret tradition. “Love Makes the Changes” takes on a more bluesy tone, setting the stage nicely for the Bergmans’ other Hollywood classic, “The Windmills of My Mind.” Accompanied by a trio, Meringolo interprets these and other songs in a simple, vocally driven manner, letting each song paint a picture with each listener filling in the emotional colors.

About David Witter

David Anthony Witter is a Chicago public school teacher and a freelance writer and photographer. Along with William Dal Cerro, he is the author of "Be-Bop, Swing and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experience." He has also written "Oldest Chicago" and "Chicago Magic, A history of Stagecraft and Spectacle." His work has appeared in Fra Noi, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Living Blues, New City, Chicago Reader, Bay Area Music Magazine, Primo, Ambassador and Italic Way. He also has entries in "The Italian-American Experience, an Encyclopedia," and "BluesSpeak, The Best of the Chicago Blues Annual."