Review: Marilyn Maye

Ella Fitzgerald once called Marilyn Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world”. That’s no exaggeration – she may be the only singer alive who combines a great vocal instrument with interpretative flair and savoir faire equal to Ella’s own. There are younger singers who might posses more powerful voices but I can think of no other singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve, and vocal range – at 83, her voice would be the the envy of singers 40 years her junior.

Her new show at Feinstein’s (until November 12), “The Best Of Times Is Now!” honors the legendary Broadway composer Jerry Herman on this 80th Birthday year, featuring songs from his shows, both hits and obscurities. Marilyn starred in Herman’s Hello, Dolly! many times – she was known as “the singing Dolly” for the simple reason that no-one else who played the role sang it with more musicality. She loves the show so much that she’s recorded an album including every song (by every character) from the Tony Award-winning score.

Herman’s songs bring out the showman in Maye, the high spirits spurring her on to high kicks. Musical director Tedd Firth brings a glossy, sophisticated jazz musicianship to the proceedings, providing a luscious frame for Maye’s multifarious artistry. Maye exquisitely tailors her style of singing to the individual song, smooth for the ballads, swinging for the standards, and truly gritty for the bluesier numbers.

Maye appeared on Johnny Carson’s edition of “The Tonight Show” a total of 76 times, a record not likely ever to be beaten by any other singer with any other host. If you love classic songs sung like they’re meant to be sung, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

For tickets, click here.

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