Only the Marvelous Marilyn Maye could pack 27 songs into an hour and 10 minute program, and still leave you wanting more.
Regaling the new Birdland Theater audience with This Could Be The Start Of Something Big (S. Allen), Ms. Maye immediately showed off her elegant and incomparable phrasing. And, continued to “Wow” her audience through 6 different sets of music, each deftly arranged and accompanied by Billy Stritch (Piano), Tom Hubbard (Bass), and Eric Halverson (Drums).
Her New York set included I Happen To Like NY (C. Porter), NY State of Mind (B. Joel), Boat That’s leaving Soon for New York (G. Gershwin), My Personal Property (Cy Coleman), and New York New York (L. Bernstein). And, with the diversity of this set, Ms Maye had the audience on the edge of their seat with anticipation of what would come next. And what did come next did not disappoint.
A Duke Ellington set, followed by Come Rain Or Come Shine (J. Mercer/H. Arlen) showed Ms. Maye was in top vocal form, singing (and soaring through) notes that other singers actively avoid. Of particular note (in an evening of particular notice) was her rendition of Golden Rainbow (W. Marks), followed by a My Fair Lady set, which included her unique interpretation of Loverly which had me hearing the words as if for the first time. This was followed by a jazz arrangement of On the Street Where You Live, featuring a scat duet between Ms. Maye and Mr. Stritch.
A Hello Dolly (Jerry Herman) set, which included It Only Takes A Moment, Ribbons Down My Back, Elegance and So Long Deary, was interrupted by spontaneous applause at the end of Before The Parade Passes By. Ms. Maye performed this role long before the current revival, and, even at 90 years of age, it was clear that her audience would love to see her do it again.
In a Frank Loesser set Ms. Maye obliterated gender constraints with beautiful and moving renditions of Joey, Joey, Joey (Most Happy Fella), and Luck Be A Lady (Guys and Dolls). And, in a rare moment of candor, Ms. May admitted that she stayed away from these songs for a long time thinking she couldn’t sing a “man’s song”. But “as years passed, I realized I can do anything I want to.” (Insert massive applause here).
The evening ended (too soon) with a Mame (Jerry Herman) set which included If He Walked Into My Life, and It’s Today, which sent the audience home humming.
Marilyn Maye is one of a very few links left to an era of cabaret and intimate performance that is becoming more and more rare with each passing year. If you gat a chance to see her, in a city near you, do not pass it up.