Marie's Crisis Cafe Is Closed, but Franca Vercelloni Is Still Taking Requests

Marie’s Crisis Cafe Is Closed, but Franca Vercelloni Is Still Taking Requests

“If you don’t collaborate here, it’s a problem,” Taylor said, adding that he instructs doormen to tell new customers that Marie’s Crisis is a place for show tunes and communal singing only.

“So, if you want to sing anything cool,” one doorman likes to say, “go somewhere else.”

In this rarefied community, in which arcane musical theater knowledge is a point of pride and each pianist has a distinct personality and repertoire, Vercelloni plays the role of a snarky but caring aunt. On a recent virtual singalong, she was saying hello to all the commenters on her screen and chattering away as if with family. “I can’t stop talking because I miss people,” she said.

David Devoe, a musician and fan who became a friend, described her as “empathic, emotional and adaptive enough to turn on a dime,” adding: “She remembers faces, and is gracious, takes nothing for granted and will never let a rough moment or a rough night dissuade her from unifying a room.”

One rough moment came for Ms. Vercelloni during a live stream last week. It wasn’t that she was having trouble with her PayPal link for tips, or that her upstairs neighbors were pounding ominously during “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Nor was it the challenge of reading a room when it was just names and comments in a constant scroll of adulation and uppercase requests that read like demands.

It was a text message that came about 10 minutes before the end of her shift. Marc Castelli, her singing waiter colleague, had died in his apartment from heart failure the day before, and she had been waiting to hear whether the family wanted her to announce it.

While singing “Magic to Do” from “Pippin,” she saw the message and thought about what to say. Inside, she was falling apart, realizing that Castelli’s family and friends wouldn’t be able to gather to memorialize him. But on camera, Vercelloni made the announcement simply, with what grace she could muster.

Then, without missing a beat or letting herself cry, she played “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.”

“I knew,” Vercelloni said later, “that’s what everyone needed at that moment.”


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