If you haven’t seen Marilyn Maye perform, join the crew on her MAYE-den voyage at 54 Below. This octogenarian is the ultimate entertainer who has perfected and carefully honed her stage skills. Easily breaking through the fourth wall illusion, she portrays a story in song. Her expressive and interpretative style sets her apart from most current cabaret performers. Approaching 85 years young, this energetic and talented dame is a real presence in a flashy fire engine red pants outfit accented with glittery sequins and a large rhinestone brooch.
Opening with a Cole Porter Medley she immediately connects with her audience while singing “Looking at YOU;” “I Get a Kick Out of YOU;” “I’ve Got YOU Under My Skin;” and “All of YOU.” The audience knows immediately she cares about them through her phrasing and emotive delivery. She follows that medley with Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home,” and she IS right at home whether on stage in New York or her actual home, Kansas City.
Her “Get Happy Medley” is a fabulous choice and she reminds the audience “that’s why you’re here,” again, genuinely connecting with them in a warm way and engaging their participation. She is the best at not just singing, but performing a song. Each and every person feels as though she’s looking at them and singing to them personally. Her enthusiasm and passion for performing is infectious. You truly feel it.
Her selections reveal her versatility. “Golden Rainbow” features her drummer, Jim Eklof, who’s worked with her for 54 years. Hard to believe because she moves like a woman many years her junior. She’s animated and ageless and a true pro. Her musical conductor and pianist Tedd Firth, one of the best around, has worked with her for seven years and has created jazz arrangements to bring out her best talent. Tom Hubbard is fine on bass. Happily the trio enhances her performance rather than over-powering it. One of my favorites was “Blues In The Night” to which she gave her all, a big voice and high energy.
Maye has an engaging sense of humor. “Take me home and play me, the CD, too,” and impeccable timing and phrasing. What an inspiration this woman is to the generations of talented women who attempt to follow in her huge footsteps. Her rendition of “Take Five” featuring drums was incredible only to be followed by her amazing New York Medley. She explained “This is about a night club where I’ve grown up, not a cabaret.” It reminds her of the living room in Copacabana. Her transitions between songs are quick, often humorous, personal yet universal and to the point, reinforcing her connection to the audience as well as the show’s theme with the Gershwin’s “There’s A Boat Leavin’ Soon for New York.”
She closed to a standing ovation with her mantra, “It’s Today,” by Jerry Herman.
Every day is a winner; everyday is a gift.” The audience loved her, not to mention her high kicks in her sexy bright red pants. The legendary Maye is performing at 54 Below.