Marilyn Maye: Marilyn Maye Gives Thanks

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Marilyn Maye

Marilyn Maye Gives Thanks

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, November 18, 2018

Reviewed by Frank Dain for Cabaret Scenes

Marilyn Maye
Photo: Kevin Alvey

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “thanks” as “an expression of gratitude.” How appropriate, then, that during Thanksgiving week, Marilyn Maye lives up to that definition at Feinstein’s/54 Below. She generously names those to whom she is grateful: her daughter, Kristi Tucker; her right-hand-woman Helen; Steve Allen; Johnny Carson and, of course, her fans. What better way for her to express that gratitude than to give yet another top-notch, high-energy, vocally perfect performance. She continues to amaze. It’s no secret that she is 90 years old, but you would never know it given her energy and vocal prowess.

From the first note, we knew all would be well in Marilyn land. That’s something for which we can all give thanks. And why not? The stage has been Maye’s home since she was a teenager.

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She has honed her craft to perfection, and yet keeps it fresh and unaffected by her sheer pleasure in entertaining. Every night is opening night for her. Maye is always “in the moment” and never phones it in. Even when she offers up audience favorites, there is nothing routine about her performance. (We have come to expect and still thrill at the three kicks she inserts into her encore, “It’s Today.”)

Her jazz chops are always on display and inform the arrangements, breathing new life into the most standard of standards. Her medley of My Fair Lady’s “I Could Have Danced All Night”/“I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”/“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”—moves those warhorses from their source to a rollicking, joyous expression of this singer’s philosophy.

But the show isn’t all fast-paced fun (and I doubt there would be any complaints if it were). Recently, Maye has been including more quiet moments in her shows, and these moments attest to the actress she is. Revel in her medley of “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”/“A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes”/“Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (and Dream Your Troubles Away).” The mother in Maye comes out—soothing, supportive, and always available.

Maye surrounds herself with top-notch musicians. Master pianist Tedd Firth continues to amaze. Any singer would be fortunate to have him provide his superb musical support.

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Tom Hubbard makes his bass sing, and drummer Daniel Glass adds the right amount of punctuation to the festivities.