Press and Reviews
New York, NY - May 29, 2011
The New York Times, Music Review
American Songbook as Fountain of Youth
By Stephen Holden
|Marilyn Maye, with the bassist Tom Hubbard, is performing standards at Feinstein's at Loews Regency.
“As many of you know, I’ve had three husbands and one meaningful love affair,” the singer Marilyn Maye remarked. “And now that I’m too old to be humble, the good news is that none of ’em worked. This is what I love.”
Ms. Maye was acknowledging to the audience at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency on Wednesday evening that her relationship with her fans has the emotional depth and complexity of a solid, rewarding marriage. At 83 she has the inexhaustible stamina and vocal heft of a woman half her age, and her spirited optimism is irresistibly contagious. By the end of the evening, as is usually the case with her shows, I was walking on air, infused with a giddy certainty that life really is a cabaret.
Accompanied by her usual trio — Tedd Firth on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass, and Jim Eklof on drums — Ms. Maye led off the evening with a suite of songs celebrating the rejuvenating powers of the relationship between artist and audience. Three medleys — “Young at Heart” joined with “You Make Me Feel So Young”; “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with “That Face”; and “Your Smiling Face” with “I Love to See You Smile,” all anchored by the Leslie Bricusse ballad “When I Look in Your Eyes” — explicitly addressed that chemistry. Bright eyes and smiley faces: as corny as those images may be, Ms. Maye extracted the life force behind them.
“Butter Out of Cream,” a Marc Shaiman-Scott Wittman song from “Catch Me If You Can,” stood out as a hardy new addition to a long lineage of upbeat Broadway exhortations to create your own good luck. “I love stories with positive morals,” Ms. Maye said.
Singing a suite of songs revolving around Fats Waller that culminated with “Honeysuckle Rose,” she didn’t shy from embracing comic lubricity; the honey didn’t simply drip; it ran in rivers. A touching tribute to Margaret Whiting, who had a similarly robust attitude, included standards (several of which Ms. Whiting popularized) written by her father, Richard Whiting, and by her mentor Johnny Mercer.
It was inevitable that one day Ms. Maye would tackle “I’m Still Here,” the Sondheim anthem from “Follies” that is a kind of Rorschach for seasoned show business veterans. Some use it to express accumulated anger, others a blasé disenchantment, and others narcissistic self-congratulation. Ms. Maye outdid her previous performances of the song with a calm full-frontal delivery that minimized high drama to evoke the big picture of a fulfilled life near the end of a long wild ride.