Singer-actor Melissa Errico is checking into the Fairmont Hotel this weekend for a grande affaire, or more accurately a Legrand Affair.
The Broadway star, of “Anna Karenina” and a “My Fair Lady” revival opposite Richard Chamberlain, makes her Bay Area Cabaret debut in a program of songs by French composer Michel Legrand, who died in January.
Errico has been immersed in his musical canon since childhood.
“My father was a concert pianist, and he used to play Michel’s music all the time. It was kind of the soundtrack of my parents’ relationship. The Vietnam War was very hard on them, and the song ‘I Will Wait for You’ was something of an anthem for them. ‘This is the good music,’ Dad told me later.”
Written for the musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” that song marked the first Oscar nomination for Legrand in a baker’s dozen career total capped by three wins including for “The Windmills of Your Mind” as Best Song.
The Paris native also collected five Grammy Awards and two Emmy nominations over his six-decade career.
His sole Tony nomination came in 2002 for “Amour” in which Errico starred and was also nominated.
“The minute I laid eyes on that man I would have done anything for him and for the show,” she says, adding, “It was hard watching New York both welcome him and not really know who he was.”
They became great friends “and conspirators,” she adds. “It was a bit of an ‘us against the world’ feeling.” They sampled the then-current Broadway offerings but often found them too loud, too bold. “He understood that I had a taste for things that were more delicate.”
Legrand wrote new material for Errico’s character. “We made my character a compulsive reader of magazines,” she remembers, “because I’d get new songs in the afternoon and have to sing them that night, so we taped them into the magazines.”
Their shared aesthetic set the stage for collaborating on a CD of Legrand songs released in 2011, which dipped generously into his collaborations with lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman.
“My first encounter with the Bergmans was on the phone. Michel and I were working on ‘You Must Believe in Spring,’ and I mentioned that I thought it was a little short. He pulls out his phone: ‘Marri-leen, I am weeth Meleessa. Vee need a new verse.’”
A fax arrived the next day in time for rehearsal.
“I could not believe that happened. They told me later that Michel was a faucet. You just turn it on, and the music comes.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Bay Area Cabaret
Where: Venetian Room, Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 19
Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com