Marilyn Maye: Carrying the Torch

By Betsyann Faiella

It’s funny that Marilyn Maye’s latest show at Feinstein’s/54 Below is titled Carrying the Torch, because her fans are all carrying the torch for her. Marilyn Maye is smashing. Not “for her age.” She simply has great taste, she sings magnificently, understands what entertainment is (she has her own brand of it, of course), is an actress with formidable skills, is hilariously funny and quick, and she’s gorgeous to look at. She also laughs at herself, which she began to do immediately when she screwed up her opening number, “Let the Good Times Roll” (Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee). “Darn, I didn’t want to do that song!” she exclaimed. I report this not to criticize. It was a lesson for all of us in humor and grace, and for Marilyn, in her own words, it was a lesson in “letting go.”

Marilyn was resplendent in a purple Bob Mackie ensemble in the second performance of her birthday celebration week. That’s her 89th birthday, people, in case you’re reading about Marilyn Maye for the first time.

The repertoire was Great American Songbook, with some chestnuts and some lesser known songs. Though everything that preceded her fourth number, “It’s Today,” (Jerry Herman) was excellent, in my opinion it was here she became totally relaxed. She was in excellent voice, and she executed two signature high kicks (and they were higher than when I saw her at Birdland in January).

The repertoire was familiar to me, because I’ve made it a point to attend as many of Marilyn’s shows in the past year as I can. Though I’d heard her recently perform “Joey, Joey, Joey,” (Frank Loesser) and “Fifty Percent,” (Billy Goldenberg, Alan and Marilyn Bergman) meanings were newly revealed. That’s what an actress of her caliber can do. I hope I hear Marilyn sing them again so I can learn even more.

Marilyn maintained a marvelous rapport with the audience who absolutely adored her, and then she graciously (and with great humor) called on all the singers in the audience to identify themselves. What a dame!

Her trio, led by pianist Tedd Firth, was superb, with Tom Hubbard on bass and Daniel Glass on drums. I couldn’t help thinking how lucky they were to be working with someone like Marilyn. And Marilyn commands the best, so that’s hats off to them, too.

Marilyn Maye is returning to Feinstein’s/54 Below from April 18th to 23rd. Treat yourself! Everyone can benefit from a dose of Ms. Maye.  Tickets.

Author: Betsyann Faiella

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