Marilyn Maye: I Wish I Were 90 Again!

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Marilyn Maye

I Wish I Were 90 Again!

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, April 4,2019

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Marilyn Maye
Photo: Kevin Alvey

She has become known as The Marvelous Marilyn Maye and with good reason–she’s an act that’s tough to beat. The diva is an almost flawless performer of consistent quality, still high-kicking a week out from turning 91. Maye executed two of ’em at the start of the show, to the sheer delight of all.

She’d already electrified the room when she set foot upon the stage, in heels no less. Aptly enough, her opener, Jerry Herman’s “It’s Today,” with Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’ “Celebration” a few songs into the evening, shot the already festive mood into high gear. Maye’s audience lapped it up with a spoon, a testimony to her popularity in these parts. But one of the singer’s strong suits is her fantastic ability to not only connect with but bond with an audience. Another immense strength is her storytelling ability. Each song becomes more—a bit of advice, a sharing of experience, an explanation. When she sings Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” you might think the number was written just for her.

Her strong Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller “I’m a Woman” proclaims a personal manifesto.

Much of the material in I Wish I Were 90 Again! is new to the New York City audience of late. She stumbled a few times; incredibly she was just learning Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You,” having never sung it before. But being the pro she is, Maye makes those flubs part of the act. “Too Late Now” by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner has long been part of her repertoire. She shared that her version of the number was selected by the Smithsonian Institution some years ago to be part of one of their 100 greatest song collections.

With Walter Mark’s “Golden Rainbow” she paid tribute to one of her most ardent fans, the actor Joseph Sirola, who had recently passed away.

She reveals, with the humor she’s known for, that she originally thought the Carol Bayer Sager/Melissa Manchester number “Come In from the Rain” was written about a dog. Maye can also swing and one of her jazziest numbers was Toots Thielemans and Norman Gimbel’s “Bluesette,” which gave music director Tedd Firth a chance to display his prodigious piano chops. Also accompanying Maye were the very talented Tom Hubbard on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.