A Tornado Hit Feinstein’s/54 Below: Marilyn Maye
When the indomitable Marilyn Maye has a birthday party, you can believe it’s like no other. What could she possible give to the jam-packed room at New York’s #1 Nightclub? Well, aside from every song that has become the highlight favorites of her repertoire, by the time you finish reading this, you’ll know much, much more!
As soon as the Marvelous One took the stage, there were standing ovations for this (and I can’t even believe I’m writing this number) 88 year old hot tomato! Dressed in a sparkling sequin red jacket, Marilyn continues to be saucy, spicy and full of pizzazz as she delivered every song her audience craved. From Jerry Herman’s “It’s Today” that flowed seamlessly into a medley of “I Love Being Here With You” (Peggy Lee/Bill Schluger) and “You Make Me Feel So Young” (Myrow, Gordon), the love fest was in full motion.
Her songs are life stories that exemplify who she is and the strong messages she can convey singing them. In between, we learn a little more about this impeccable storyteller who keeps the American Standards alive. Her mama (who played stride piano) gave her the best advice . . . be true to yourself . . . as she talks about her first amateur contest – a kid singing “Look For the Silver Lining.”
It isn’t a surprise that Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” has the great impact it always does or that “Make Your Own Kind of Music” (Mann/Weil) is a mantra that served Marilyn well throughout her career. The songs are peppered with insights into her own personal life as she shares it all easily and lovingly. Throughout the nearly 90 minutes of extraordinary performance, there are frequent bursts of oohs and aahs and thunderous applause accompanied by standing ovations . . . the audience, a virtual who’s who in music, included Michael Feinstein and Ann Hampton Callaway.
Medleys are clever gems of lyrics that meld together and explode as in a Love Medley of “My Romance/Why Did I Choose You/That’s All” (Rodgers/Hart/Leonard/Martin/Brandt/Haymes) another virtual love affair between her and the audience.
Big audience pleasers are what we wait for as the show comes closer to the finish – – “Bye Bye Country Boy”(Blossom Dearie/Jack Segal) where sassy Ms. Maye lights up the room even more, as she moves into an all-time favorite “Guess Who I Saw Today” (Grand/Boyd) with all the power it deserves. But my personal favorites – James Taylor’s “The Secret of Life” makes the grand statement. She was backed up by favorite musicians, Tedd Firth on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and Ray Marchica on drums.
And then it was cake time. No, not the one that Marilyn saw earlier in her dressing room, but one that was walked into the room by 4 people featuring a BIG 88 on the top of a chocolate covered full size 88 keyboard piano – her name prominently written in icing in the center. And here’s the photo! A special present from a special Philadelphia fan made by an extraordinary baker.
The cake was delicious but the unstoppable Marilyn Maye is far better.
Happy Birthday Marilyn from all your friends and fans! Looking forward to celebrating next year . . .