Marilyn Maye- “The Maye Way”
Sat May 8th 2021.
Virtual Performance from Feinstein’s 54 Below
by Aron Bederson
Marilyn Maye’s virtual return to Feinstein’s 54 Below was filmed at the club on April 4th and premiered on April 8, 2021. Artfully edited, we first see and hear the trio: Todd Tedd Firth -piano; Thomas Hubbard -Bass; and Mark Mclean -percussion. The shot then cuts to Maye looking directly into the camera and commanding the stage.
The Song is You (Hammerstein/Kern) showed Maye to be in great voice and spirits, sounding remarkably relaxed yet energized, and ending the song with an impressive high note, worthy in both its clarity and effortlessness. Maye, a skilled raconteur, bantered with the band and charmed the virtual audience. After her first number she asked: “Have I been introduced?” Then turning to the pianist she asked “Who am I? Patti Page?” before launching into Sondheim’s Old Friends and I Love Being Here With You (Lee/Schluger). Maye jazzed up sections of the song and when she sang “I love hearing my name!” the trio cheerily responded with a hearty “Marilyn!.” Throughout the evening, Maye acknowledged and interacted with her trio, crafting the absolute right balance between connecting with the virtual audience and including the band in the performance.
The evening was devoted to songs from Broadway and Maye has sung a lot of them! The set included 24 songs with Maye relating stories from her career which has included performances in theatres all over the country as well as commercials, political campaign songs and her work on cabaret stages. The set was divided into different sections and included many of the great composers and lyricists from Broadway and The American Songbook. After her opening numbers, Maye dove into a relaxed Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home (Mercer/Arlen) and a smokey Cabaret (Ebb/Kander) with a gentle ending leading into her relaxed banter revealing she had a “turntable hit” with Cabaret long before the play and the movie. She followed this with Step To The Rear (Bernstein/Leigh) which she had sung as a car commercial and a campaign song.
The next section consisted of three songs from Hello Dolly (Jerry Herman) and the beginning of Maye’s homage to Herman throughout the night. Ribbons Down My Back was particularly touching, sung as a gentle ballad with a jazz scat ending , displaying Maye’s mastery of pitch, dead center (throughout) and in the last blues note. She has a particular fondness for Herman’s work and sang three songs from “Mame”; Mame, If He Walked Into My Life and It’s Today. She followed the “Hello Dolly” section with three, jazz-inflected approaches to songs from
“My Fair Lady” (Lerner/Lowe), another musical Maye loves: I’ve Grown Accustomed to (His) Face, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly and a swinging version of On The Street Where You Live which ended with a tour de force of great scat singing.
The next 6-song set delt with smiling and included; When You’re Smiling (Fisher/Goodwin/Shay), Pack Up Your Troubles (F. Powell/G. Powell), a touching Smile (Turner/Parson/Chaplin), and a swinging Put On A Happy Face (Adams/Strouse) that ended with a phenomenal note that would be stunning anywhere in a program, but as the 20th song of the night, gave chills.
Maye followed this with a torchy Fifty Percent (M. and A Bergman/Goldenberg), a rousing Golden Rainbow (Marks) and Sondheim’s anthem for the enduring I’m Still Here. She concluded with Jerry Herman’s It’s Today a song about celebrating the moment which you might
expect to see at the beginning of a set but was completely appropriate here. Maye seemed as if she could continue with another 24 songs. The evening was a testimony to Maye’s love of singing, skill and strength. The demanding program would challenge any singer but Maye delivered a joyous, engaging evening with ease and grace.
The show runs On Demand May 9 to June 19, 2021
Tickets are $35 to view the stream. To purchase, visit www.54Below.com/Marilyn.