Marilyn Maye

The Happiest Sound in Town

Feinstein's at Loews Regency
New York, NY
The ebullient, black-sequined Marilyn Maye sends spirits soaring through the roof at Feinstein’s with her current, perfectly-titled show: The Happiest Sound in Town (Marilyn Maye/Sammy Tucker)(a song, which, itself, should be heard more often. I’m convinced the lady has a crumbling portrait locked away in an attic somewhere; not only does she never seem to age, but her well-honed contralto, creative mojo, and communication skills remain singularly remarkable. “It’s never too late to be singin’ and swingin’,” laughs the songstress. Hallelujah!

In celebration of April—Maye’s birthday “…the whole month, so nobody’s ever too late with flowers, candy or…jewelry,” the artist is presenting a beautifully crafted program of 96% upbeat sentiment ranging from the iconic, here captivatingly intimate “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields) to finds like Steve Allen’s “When I’m in Love,” a playful, harmonized duet with accompanist/Musical Director Billy Stritch.

We’re treated to unconditionally jubilant, infectious anthems (the lady can kick!) and jazzy, elegantly-arranged ballads. Sadie Thompson’s story, “Rain,” (author unknown) persuasively sizzles to an intermittent mambo. A medley of familiar New York songs, offered in this city by Maye for the first time, seems freshly minted with her personal, interpretive stamp.

“April Showers” begins with only piano, as if Stritch is stroking its heartstrings. Maye is completely focused, almost still. All eyes are riveted. The number may never have been so mesmerizing. Her version of “Too Late Now” (Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner from Royal Wedding) was chosen by the arts council of The Smithsonian as the best rendition of one of the best songs of the 20th century. The swaying foxtrot is simply lovely.

Long, glorious phrases are sung without a glimpse of Maye’s inhaling. Gestures are minimal, expressive, sometimes punctuating. Patter is anecdotal. Her eyes warm the audience—connecting. We are, each and every one, believers. Really, one wants to buy her a drink and just talk.

Stritch (piano), Tom Hubbard (bass) and Jim Eklof (drums) are terrific. Arrangements are rich, deft and fun.

Marilyn continues at Feinstien’s through May 5. See an interview with her in our April 2012 issue.

Alix Cohen
Cabaret Scenes
April 25, 2012