Here is your New Year’s Resolution: I Will Go See Marilyn Maye at the Metropolitan Room. Don’t think about this. Just do it. You will start the year off giving yourself an extraordinary gift. Plus – you will be grateful to me, and I like the sound of that.
When you do go see this incredible performer, you will be lifted up into the stratosphere. You will tap your feet, hum, laugh, weep and be happy. Because as Maye tells us, “New Yorkers are happiest when they are sitting, drinking and crying.”
Everything about Marilyn Maye works. Her extraordinary voice, her storytelling that is at the dead center of each song, her ad libs, her vitality, her fierce belief that what is around the corner is worth investigating, and her determination to be a conduit for life’s electric pulse.
This is not a grande old dame with a scented hanky warbling musty melodies. This is a thoroughbred bounding out of the gate brandishing a mane of roman candles.
Maye lives in the present. “Remember all the good times that happened in 2013? Well, it’s gone.” She reveres the past, but she doesn’t live in it. She appreciates old friends, but the way they get to be old friends is by ending up in the now. And Maye makes it clear that whether this is your first visit or you are a returnee – you are loved and cherished as a friend.
This show is called Marilyn By Request. When you make your reservation you can leave a request for the singer. She and conductor/pianist Billy Stritch pick a few for the evening and work them into the show. If there is a theme here, it is about relationships and our connection to one another. In this case, however, the old form is tossed out and you hear the words as though they were fresh off the press (and indeed some are). On The Street Where you Live is given an overhaul and released into the room as a piece of sleek jazz. When an audience member yells out “Encore,” May replies, “For ONE cover charge? I don’t’ think so.”
However when another person shouted out “Embraceable You!” as a request, Maye barely took a breath before slipping into the tune without so much as a nod to her musicians (pianist/conductor Billy Stritch, bassist Tom Hubbard, and drummer Ray Marchica). Not for nothing, but I don’t know which is better – watching and listening to Marilyn Maye glide through her repertoire or watching Billy Stritch watch and partner with Marilyn May while she glides through her repertoire. This is a duo attached at the hip and heart. Seriously – it does not get better than that.
The evening’s medleys are delicious: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do/Am I Blue?, In The Wee Small Hours/I’ll Be Around and Where Or When/My Buddy/What’ll I Do? The individual numbers exquisite. Maye modulates, refines, digs deep, deep, deep and soars high – all in the pursuit of the intimate details of the story she is telling.
Maye has a whimsical swipe at romance, You Can Eat Crackers In My Bed I and Get Yourself A Rich Man and then sings a surprising arrangement of songs about a real true love: New York.
May closes with her signature farewell, It’s Today – by Jerry Herman from the musical Mame – and knocks it out of the park so far you can nearly see opening day at Fenway on the horizon. By the time that last note finishes, you and everyone else will be standing and cheering. This is not a choice – it is a reflex. Marilyn Maye sings, and folks jump for joy.
The exuberance will stay with you as you hit the streets after the show.
So I ask you – isn’t this the way you would like to begin your New Year???
“Marilyn by Request” plays Fri to Sun January 3, 4 and 5; Wed & Thurs January 8 & 9, and Sat & Sun January 11 & 12. All shows are at 7pm. For information/reservations visit www.metropolitanroom.com or call 212/206-0440. The Metropolitan Room is located at 34 West 22nd Street.