by Betsyann Faiella
I’m just going to get this over with – the show was flat out fantastic.
After more than a year in lockdown, during which Maye “watched old movies and ate Gummie Bears,” she recently emerged to play live in Florida, and to record this concert of theater songs at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Sure of herself in front of a camera or three and looking absolutely FABULOUS – Maye’s skillfully paced show opened with a group of songs that not only welcomed viewers, but expressed her own sentiments about being on stage once again: “The Song is You” (Kern/Hammerstein II), “Old Friends” (Sondheim) – during which she looked straight into the camera at the viewers – “I love Being Here With You” (Lee/Schluger), “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home,” (Mercer/Arlen) and “Cabaret” (Kander/Ebb).
Maye visited, generously, music from the Jerry Herman repertoire with songs from Mame and Hello, Dolly!, shows in which she starred in Regional Theater productions. In Broadway, The Maye Way, “Ribbons Down My Back,” which is sung by the character of Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly!, elicited an audible gasp (from me, as I was alone watching this) at the tenderness she brought to this gorgeous song. During the Dolly Section, Marilyn introduced a favorite New York photographer, Kevin Alvey, who played Barnaby to her Dolly, and who was lucky enough to be one of few people at Feinstein’s/54 Below when the show was filmed.
I could enumerate the songs in the concert, but there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch, and that would be the equivalent of “a spoiler” in my humble opinion. Instead, I’ll let you know that Marilyn hasn’t lost one bit of her humor or subtlety. “I’m Still Here” is a critical lesson in “less is more.” Her version of “Fifty Percent” from Ballroom is splendidly acted, and heartbreaking. She cuts loose during the set – a jazz singer at heart – quite a few times with a mild scat, and her high notes are clear, strong and pitch perfect. She talks to the “audience” as if we were in the room, (except she looks straight into the camera) and at one point even encourages us to sing along. She tells us how being in lockdown has proven to her how much she loves this business, because she admits, she “hasn’t been happy” this past year. I’m sure that’s true, as few really have, but you’d never know it by looking at her. She looks and sounds radiant.
As I sat listening to the superb trio – Tedd Firth on piano, Tom Hubbard on Bass, and Mark McLean on Percussion – I wondered what those three fellows (and Billy Stritch who is her frequent pianist along with Firth) will think, in years to come, of these gigs with Marilyn Maye. I hope they’ll know they experienced a miracle.
Directed by Cody Williams, with nifty camera work by D.P. Adam Paul Verity and cameraman Derek Sexton Horani.
At about 70 minutes long, Marilyn Maye’s Broadway, The Maye Way, premiered to the public on May 8th, as part of the virtual 54 Below Premieres series. Running through May 29. Get tickets HERE