Beginning Legrand Adventure

Melissa Errico
Melissa Errico took a break at Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett while her 5-year-old daughter was on horseback. Morgan McGivern

We’re all different people every day, as is said. You might be a Broadway singer and actress reprising “Camelot” with Jeremy Irons one day, playing opposite Matthew Modine’s Thomas Jefferson the next, and going on to headline the Noel Coward Awards, maybe squeezing in a dinner with Alec Baldwin.
    Come the weekend, though, there’s that riding lesson for your 5-year-old out in Amagansett. And wait a minute — late-breaking development — the Har-Tru’s calling for a quick set of doubles. Before you know it, it’s time to round up a passel of kids for “The Nutcracker” at Guild Hall.
    But what if you blurred the bifurcation? Instead of dividing your attention, combined your selves and made the personal, professional?
    Over what she called “a six-year journey” to record her new album, “Legrand Affair,” on which she sings the music of the film composer Michel Legrand, Melissa Errico had three children. At first, she sang pregnant. “We weren’t satisfied,” she said on a recent Sunday in Southampton, where she and her husband, the tennis commentator Patrick McEnroe, were staying with her mother. She would go on to find that the life changes had changed her artistry. “Having more children had me feeling more deeply,” the work coming to reflect her emotions about them. “So much of it was from the heart. . . . I sang it all over again,” each song in one or two takes, “trying to make it simpler and simpler. I didn’t feel like a young Broadway star anymore.”
    “This showbiz-motherhood thing is not easy, from starting up again to aging and having different priorities. I can sing a Noel Coward song so differently now.”
    “The more you feel, the quieter you get,” Mr. Legrand himself said to her.
    The album was produced by Phil Ramone, with original arrangements by Mr. Legrand, who conducts the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra on the disc. Its title is a play on “The Thomas Crown Affair,” Norman Jewison’s 1968 movie starring Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, and one happy set of chess pieces. That film’s score is one of many dozens Mr. Legrand has written, its song “Windmills of Your Mind,” which is on the new album, winning him an Academy Award.
    Among the 15 tracks of hits and lesser-known tunes on “Legrand Affair” is “In Another Life,” a new song with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The disc has won praise from The Wall Street Journal and USA Today and was added to The Washington Post’s holiday gift recommendations.
    “This is Michel Legrand unbridled,” Ms. Errico said, “he has no restraint in style. It’s him late in his career, taking his own songs and tripping out. . . . It’s a real homage to the last things he ever did. There’s scope to it.”
    The two met while working on the musical “Amour,” for which Ms. Errico was nominated for a Tony Award. “Our music just went well together,” she said, her descriptions of his ranging from “chromatic” and “tangly” to “eccentric, sensual,” and capable of unleashing “a little tornado of emotion.” In contrast with Coward’s famous “talent to amuse,” she said, Mr. Legrand has “a talent to intrigue.”
    The relationship goes back to her childhood, in a way: “My father — he’s a classical concert pianist — loved Legrand’s music. He’d play it when trying to seduce my mother. I was already a devotee when we started rehearsals.”
    “I came out of the gate pretty high,” Ms. Errico said of her career, getting cast as Cosette in “Les Miserables” when she was a freshman at Yale. She has played Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” and was cast by Stephen Sondheim in the Bernadette Peters role in “Sunday in the Park With George,” which she’ll take up again at the Kennedy Center in June.
    Singing, Ms. Errico said, held a place in her “long-term soul . . . I’ve got to sing. If I had one day left, I’d sing a song.”
    Before her repeat performances in the American Musical Theater Salutes series at Guild Hall, Ms. Errico said, her first singing engagement out this way was in the mid-1990s at the Bay Street Theatre in “Make Someone Happy,” the musical by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It had a set designed by Tony Walton and occasioned a backstage visit from Julie Andrews, who signed Ms. Errico’s guestbook, “With love from the other Eliza!”