Review: Marilyn Maye

Marilyn Maye 2013 2

There is simply nobody remotely like this overpoweringly amazing cabaret singer. It might not be an exaggeration to call her the best jazz cabaret singer in the world. She’s certainly the last great performer in that style of her generation, still in astonishingly full command of her vocal powers. And at 54 Below right now, she’s turning her towering talent exclusively to showtunes. Lucky us!

Maye has been rediscovered by New York audiences over the last few years, and the ever growing lovefest between fans old and new is palpable in the room, which only adds to the fun. But she’s had fans in good places for a long time: Johnny Carson gave her a standing invitation to sing on “The Tonight Show” whenever possible, and she ended up appearing 76 times while Carson was in the chair, a record nobody has broken since (maybe somebody should start a Facebook petition to have her back on the show when Fallon brings it back to New York)!

She’s always included showtunes in her act, so there’s plenty of familiar stuff, especially from Hello Dolly and Mame, shows whose title roles she played in now-legendary regional productions. She also does a a medley of songs from My Fair Lady that climaxes in a stunning, hard-swinging rendition of “On the Street Where You Live” that even the often-modest Maye had to admit “really cooked!!

There are several other medleys, but Maye and her music director Tedd Firth – a gifted but taciturn jazzbo she coaxes into some hilarious deadpan interplay – handle medleys in an unconventional way, undercutting their potential for corniness with thoughtful storytelling and sophisticated jazz musicianship. If you love show tunes sung in sparkling and surprising ways, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

For tickets, click here.

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