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  • THE HUFFINGTON POST - January 15, 2017
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    Marilyn Maye is more – if that’s possible — than a mere phenomenal entertainer.
    By Myra Chanin
  • Marilyn MayeMyra Chanin - January 15, 2017

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    Marilyn Maye is more – if that’s possible — than a mere phenomenal entertainer. She’s a prodigious force field of love!! A few days before her would-ya-believe 89th birthday, she ruled every eye, ear and heart in the sold-out-whenever-she-appears-there Metropolitan Room for the hour and three quarters she commanded the stage during the fortnight she performed “Marilyn Maye, by Request.” Marilyn began her professional singing career 80 years ago at the age of nine when she won a 13-week singing gig from a Topeka, Kansas radio station. She was discovered a few years later by Steve Allen and soon became Johnny Carson’s favorite vocalist, During her 76 appearances on The Tonight Show. Carson summed up her art in the following nine words to his 20 million nightly viewers: “And that younger singers, is the way it’s done!”

    Marilyn’s also a sight for sore eyes. Flawlessly coifed, stylishly attired, she glides through the packed room greeting familiar faces by name, including her “every night” fan, Drew Stevens, who’s attended every one of Marilyn’s New York City performances during the past ten years. All her newbies quickly become regulars. Why? Marilyn Maye is cabaret’s Cleopatra. To quote the Bard of Avon, “Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety.” Always ready, willing and able to give her Absolute All plus 100% from her entrance on stage to the ultimate tete-a-tete with the doting fans at the end of each endless post-performance queue, Marilyn never short-changes anyone. She gives the same time and attention to the last in line as she did to the first.

    On stage Marilyn stands as tall and straight as girl in her twenties while her glittering sequin jacket casts a magical rainbow across the room. She lifts the mic with manicured, graceful fingers, unobtrusively shifts its stand behind her, beams as musical director Tedd Firth strikes up the band and then her gloriously buttery, full throated contralto celebrates Jerry Herman’s appropriate lyrics about being alive and high-kicking at any age, let alone 89.

    Light the candles. Fill the punch bowl. Pull the stops out. It’s Today!

    Her stagecraft is simply sensational. She smoothly glides, turns and makes constant eye contact, lest any paying guests feel they’ve been seated in Siberia. Four high kicks later when, the opening song ends, the room explodes into the evening’s first standing ovation, to be followed by several others during the ensuing 90-something minutes.

    Marilyn has always taken remarkable care of her voice and her vocal chords show their appreciation by doing whatever she wants whenever she wants it — belt out a showstopper, croon a love song, warble the blues, swing to syncopation, make you laugh or tear your heart out. Whatever a lyric requires as it passes through her brain, her emotions supply before she utters it. That night’s “Marilyn Maye, By Request” was made up 30 songs that ran the gamut of Broadway classics by Jerry Herman, Lerner and Loewe and Stephen Sondheim, included a tribute to Steve Allen and made the most of Andy Razoff’s double entendre lyrics to Fats Waller melodies.

    Marilyn Maye teaches a Master Class about once a month at a New York City midtown venue, teaching would-be singers better ways of finding their own way of delivering the story of a song. One of her students, Gregory Groepper, a 17-year- old high school senior, joined her in singing two Sinatra standards before soloing on the Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tune from Hamilton “You’ll Be Back!” a lovely melody with an angry lyrics written for the rejected British King, George III.

    A high point of the show for me was Marilyn’s tender rendition of the late Blossom Dearie’s, “Bye-bye Country Boy,” about a brief affair between a cynical yet sentimental traveling girl singer and an adoring native she takes up with at a county fair sung back-to-back with the sexy, sensuous “Lazy Afternoon,” from a musical about the Trojan War.

    But the zenith was Marilyn’s heavenly closing — James Taylor’s “The Secret of Life,” which contains more wisdom than I ever thought Taylor knew.

    The secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time. Try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.

    Marilyn Maye displays more power than a Saturn-bound rocket and 15 times as much oomph, vigor, glamour and talent as any year’s Grammy winner without employing fireworks, fog machines, reverb equipment or any other non-musical paraphernalia. “Marilyn Maye by Request” returns to the Metropolitan Room on January 19th and January 21st at 7pm with the great Billy Stritch as music director.

    Also, The Art of Performance will be held on Sunday January 22nd from 1:30 to 6:30 pm. Participants as well as Auditors are welcome. Contact Deb Berman at 917-0796-3912 or deb550@gmail.com for reservations and information. I audited two of Marilyn’s master classes and found them one of the greatest bargains in town.

    For Tickets to “Marilyn Maye by Request” at the Metropolitan Room at 34 W. 22nd Street 10010, call 212-206-0440 or go to www.metropolitanroom.com

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