Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring is Here

What can we possibly say about the remarkable Marilyn Maye that we haven't told you before? We could tell you (again) that she's an octogenarian dynamo who looks, shimmies and sounds at least two decades younger. We could tell you (again) that she has a seemingly inexhaustible set of pipes that put most singers half her age to shame. We could tell you (again) about her bawdy sense of humor, her sharp wit, and the mass adoration she inspires from her audience.

But the most helpful thing we could tell you about Ms. Maye, and her new show at Feinstein's at the Regency, It's Maye in May, is to simply buy your tickets now. It is an absolute do-not-miss event.

At first glance (or hearing), this program didn't seem to have the same structure as some of Maye's other, now-legendary shows, i.e. devoted to a single composer (Johnny Mercer the Maye Way) or a story arc (Love on the Rocks, dedicated to mostly torch songs). Then, going over the set list once our dizzying state of euphoria lifted, we realized that this breakneck show was light on the ballads, and jam-packed with zingy, springy arrangements -- Maye in May, indeed.

Ms. Maye -- glittering in sequined black -- broke us in gently, with a lightly swinging medley of "You Make Me Feel So Young" and "Young and Heart." But the number of rafter-ringing showstoppers which followed was astonishing: not only for Maye's vocal stamina, but for their clever pace and placement. In lesser hands, so many Big Numbers would have been overwhelming for the audience. A savvy pro like Marilyn Maye cooks up medleys which begin at a moderate tempo, and then gradually build to a wild climax ("Honeysuckle Rose," which capped off a brilliant Fats Waller medley, had the room practically standing on their chairs, cheering); while standalone gems like her incredible arrangements of "Get Me to the Church on Time," "On the Street Where You Live," "Blues in the Night" and "Come Rain or Come Shine," are bookended by slower and/or lighter moments.

It must also be mentioned that Ms. Maye's virtuosity is more than well-served by her flawless trio: her unflappable drummer Jim Ekloff, who has been with Maye for almost 50 years; the always-dignified Tom Hubbard, superbly supplying bass; and the whiz kid, Tedd Firth, musical director and pianist par excellence, whose jaw-dropping playing matches Maye's vocal flights of fancy to a tee.

By the time we get to the 11 o'clock torch number, "I'm Still Here" from Follies, it seems almost anti-climactic, essentially putting the brakes on suddenly after so many scorching, sizzling-hot highlights. But there's no denying Maye's well-won right to perform this warhorse, especially after her incendiary performance of it at composer Stephen Sondheim's birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall last year. And, of course, she absolutely nails it, wringing every last drop of wry wit and bemusement from the lyric.

We've often mentioned our dislike for this particular venue; its shortcomings almost always color our experience, no matter how good the performer. When Marilyn Maye made her Feinstein's debut last year, even her magic couldn't make us completely overlook the charmless setting. But this show is too darn hot to miss, and Marilyn Maye, if you'll forgive a cliche, has never been better. We've been twice since she opened this past Tuesday, and will be back two or three times before her run ends on June 4.

If you want a perfect evening, we can think of none better than this: start with dinner at Le Veau d'Or on East 60th and Lexington -- another all-time classic which just keeps going. Order the vichyssoise and the poussin, baby roast chicken; or maybe the celeri rémoulade and the divine monkfish special. After you polish off your Pêche Melba or œufs à la neige, walk one block west to Feinstein's at East 61st and Park. Bask in the younger than springtime glow of Maye. Then, if you're anything like us, repeat.

Buy tickets HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks TJB for another enlightening review of the
    great Marilyn Maye.
    One day you must expound upon how and why the
    Feinstein's venue strikes you as charmless. I totally
    approve of a style blog which critiques not only musical entertainment but, along with it, issues of décor and
    service. It's the whole package which makes an evening
    magical or mundane. This from someone who recalls
    only too vividly the obstreperous waiters at the Café
    Carlyle back in the days when Bobby Short began working there.