Do you wake up each day and weigh the pros and cons of showering, as though you’re Hamlet pondering “to be or not to be?” Then, like me, you are surely having trouble acclimating to our new homebody reality amid the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
In New York, for now, normalcy is off the table. With only essential businesses fully operational starting Sunday, most of us are working from home, cooking at home, watching TV at home and even talking to our home, worried about the day when home finally talks back.
But there’s one thing keeping me sane during the COVID-19 hurly-burly: the Marie’s Crisis livestream.
“Crisis,” you say? “We don’t need another crisis!” How right you are. But the funny name’s got nothing to do with the content. Marie’s Crisis is a century-old piano bar in New York’s West Village that for the past several decades has served as a Broadway show-tune singalong venue. You show up, you cram in with the (frequently) unwashed masses, you pound down booze and you sing “Chess.” And you like it.
I am there — gulp — a lot. It might as well be my emergency contact and my Amazon Locker. Marie’s temporary closure has been just as jarring to my daily routine as no longer going into an office, reviewing movies on the big screen or seeing Broadway shows.
Thankfully for its regulars and fans around the globe, the innovative crew has come up with a way to keep the place going “One Day More,” or, potentially, several months more: a livestreamed show-tunes bar. For many of us, this experiment has become a sturdy stone pillar during an especially wobbly moment.
Not to mention a freakin’ delight. Each night, two scheduled piano players — Franca Vercelloni, Adam Michael Tilford, Brandon James Gwinn, Michael James Roy, Kenney Green, Dan Daly, Drew Wutke, Alex Barylski and James Merillat — do two to three hours of “Pippin,” “Hello, Dolly!” and more from their apartments via Facebook Live in the members-only Facebook group called “Marie’s Group.”
They perform and dish snark while racking up thousands of views as people watch from home, sing along and tip the pianists and servers as they would at the actual bar, only using Venmo and other forms of online payment. They make a living; we go on living.
I’ve been watching with a glass of wine every night since last Saturday, when Vercelloni streamed her shift at the brick-and-mortar bar on Facebook for lonely fans who were cooped up in their co-ops. “I wanted to encourage people to stay home in an effort to keep all of us healthy,” Vercelloni tells The Post. “I wanted to provide patrons with the option of enjoying from a distance.”
The shuttering of all New York watering holes was announced the next day, and the piano players and singing servers have been broadcasting from home every night since. They plan to continue until the storied bar reopens.
“The livestream is a way to help keep my family supported, while still keeping that joy alive,” says Marie’s customer Tasso Bountouvas. “And in this time of social distancing, it provides a way for me to stay connected to my family and friends who I already deeply miss.”
If you’ve never been to Marie’s before and decide to tune in to the livestream, you’ll get a glimpse of what’s so wonderful about New York’s talented and eccentric downtown performers, even when they’re solo at their apartments in Astoria, Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem. There is an ease, a confidence, an attitude and a sense of humor that’s unique to the neighborhood.
Take Vercelloni singing the famous “Adelaide’s Lament” from “Guys and Dolls.”
“In other words, just from worrying whether the wedding is on or off, a person can develop a cough,” Vercelloni sang on Saturday, before adding her own timely joke: “Into your elbow!”
Livestreams on Facebook and Instagram are multiplying by the day, filmed by arts institutions, close friends and even major stars. For instance, Gal Gadot brought her rich and famous pals together to, bizarrely, sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” a few days ago.
But Marie’s Crisis’ broadcast and other local efforts are about more than cuteness or assuaging our boredom. Sure, you’ll have a great time, but this is an opportunity to support our beloved daily-grind entertainers, servers and bartenders, who lift our spirits all year long. And to ensure once this pandemic finally passes, they’ll be back to doing just that.