By Tulis McCall
Marilyn Maye begins her act before she steps on the stage. Every time. She enters the room as if she doesn’t know exactly where she is, and isn’t she surprised to see us all there! And we buy it. Every single time, both those of us who have been lucky to see Ms. Maye several times and the newbies. Because Marilyn Maye makes every performance seem like the first one. And she makes you feel like she might not be able to go one without you – when really it is the other way around.
Most of Marilyn Maye: 90 At Last is a series of medleys through which she is guided magnificently by Billy Stritch (Conductor/Pianist), Tom Hubbard (Bassist) and Daniel Glass (Drummer). She talks to them almost as much as she does to us, comparing notes – what is a major and what is minor chord progressions. When she loses her way with her schtick she relies on them for guidance which they give as best they can in between laughs (theirs).
The medleys’ intents are clear. The theme tonight is about love, and being happy, and being able to shout “Hallelujah” out loud. We don’t get that opportunity much. Even here in boisterous noisy New York. Walk around shouting “Hallelujah” and see how far you get before people start crossing the street rather than share the sidewalk with you. Not here. Tonight is a night for howling celebration.
First medley belongs to Cole Porter and the many angles of love and passion. Next up is a series of happy songs that are absent of sacral. Maya’s vantage, at the age go 90, is that every moment is to be gripped until your knuckles have turned white and you have squeezed every drop of juice out of it. This is after all her birthday celebration and she gets to share it just the way she wants to. The tells us she has had three marriages and one meaningful relationship. And that suits her just fine. These days her most meaningful relationship is with her audience. Are we lucky or WHAT?
The bubbly brilliant posing numbers slide seamlessly into more serious fare. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love – Music,Jimmy McHugh & Lyrics,Dorothy Fields (From Blackbirds of 1928), a Love Medley she dedicated to the light operator who was off getting married on the night I attended, but got a dedication anyway. I Love You –Cole Porter, My Romance – Music, Richard Rodgers &Lyrics, Lorenz Hard (From Jumbo), Why Did I Choose You – Music, Michael Leonard &Lyrics, Herbert Martin, That’s All – Music, Bob Haymes &Lyrics, Alan Brandt.
There follow the fierce love declarations. Maye delivers them with exuberance and precision. She climbs into the fondue pot of love and hands it out to us spoonful bu spoonful. Come Rain or Come Shine – Music, Harold Arlen & Lyrics, Johnny Mercer (From St. Louis Woman), Hallelujah I Love Her So – Ray Charles – these are songs of devotion, promise and life force.
She next turns her gaze to another love that she, and we, share. That is our love for New York. The north, south, east and west of it. The stink of it and the rhythm of it. It is her Personal Property that she is willing to share with us.
Finally she closes with L-I-F-E and all that it entails. Her experience is glowing, her heart is showing, and it is, after all TODAY. Marilyn Maye is more than a musical magician. She is a majestic presence whose voice cuts through the hardest of hearts. Her humor lifts the rooftops for miles around. Her commitment to taking us by the hand and marching straight to Heaven is electric. And while she is holding our hands we can hear her whisper, “You can do this. You can do anything.” She makes me believe that I, too, can make miracles in my life.
As she leaves, the dessert arrives – another gift from the birthday girl.
Not to be missed, this Marvel. You have ONE MORE CHANCE.
MARILYN MAYE:90 AT LAST!! April 29th at 7PM. Feinsteins/54 Bleow. Located at 254 West 54th Street, Feinstein’s/54 Below features up to three shows nightly with cover charges ranging from $5-$105. 54Below.com/Feinsteins $85-$95 cover charge. $115 VIP seating. $145-$150 premium seating. $25 food & beverage minimum.