- 54 Below - May 11, 2021
Marilyn Maye: Broadway, the Maye Way On 54 Below
By Stephen Moser
Whether in a sold-out arena of thousand, an intimate club holding fifty people, or a supper club housing only empty seats and three cameramen, Ms. Maye is unable to contain the natural flow of talent from every fiber of her being. For some time, and through no voluntary choices of her own, Marilyn Maye has been deprived of her greatest form of expression, save for a few isolated opportunities in recent weeks. On April 4th, though, Maye and three musicians with whom she appears connected at the brain stepped up onto the stage at Feinstein's/54 Below, where she played a concert to a near-empty room that might as well have been one intended for a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. The legendary singer held nothing back in her wish to reach straight through the camera lens and into the souls of future virtual audiences - refusing to pull her punches, Marilyn dug as deeply as she ever does, as she ever has, to tell the stories... maybe even deeper. Such is the commitment that Ms. Maye has to the audience, to the artistry, and to the anecdote.
BROADWAY, THE MAYE WAY is the latest film from the in-house production company at Feinstein's/54 Below and it is impeccable cinematic documentation of what has made Ms. Maye one of the all-time great performers, and why her career has had the longevity that it has. In the more-than-generous seventy-minute film, Marilyn is joined by Musical Director Tedd Firth, bassist Tom Hubbard, and percussionist Mark McLean in an exploration of (mostly) show music that makes Maye happy - and her audiences, too, as these are songs that she tells the camera are frequently requested of her. Naturally, there is plenty of Hello, Dolly!, lots of My Fair Lady, and loads of Mame, but Broadway is incidental in the evening's entertainment, one that uses the famous street in New York to sell tickets to the show, one that is more aptly named MARILYN THE MAYE WAY, for Marilyn is the magic that draws the audience to the stage, or in this case, the screen. There is enormous power in originality, unfathomable appeal in overwhelming talent, and when Marilyn Maye wants you to swing to "On The Street Where You Live" or rock out with the growing beat of "Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home" there is no choice but to go, contentedly, blissfully, hypnotically where she will lead. No singer of standards in a standard arrangement is this - here is an artist who sees beyond what is just on the page, who hears more sounds and different patterns than lie in the staffs, and never has her mission been any more or any less than to bring that particular vision, those particular stories, to her audience. Note, especially, the jazz influences that turn numbers from Hello, Dolly! and Cabaret into jaunty, playful expressions of affection for the audience and for the writers of the songs, or subdued choices, both acting and vocal, that turn a famous ballad from Ballroom into a revelation to even those who have sung the song before. When Marilyn Maye sings these songs we all know and love, they become a new journey to take, a lesson never before learned, and an emotion heretofore inexperienced.
Masterfully (Mistressfully? It's 2021, ya'all) working her way through an evening of entertainment that has as many changing moods as the arrangements have changing time signatures, Marilyn has complete control of everything, including the fact that there is no live audience. Wit and charm abound as she speaks, sometimes motherly, sometimes flirtatiously, always genuinely, directly to the home audience, expressing more than once her wish for a day when all will be united in the clubs and the cabarets, once more; at no time does the action lag or the presentation want. This is Marilyn Maye captured in her natural element, so much so that the film should be shown on the National Geographic Channel, for anyone wishing to observe a musical storyteller in the wild. Marilyn Maye isn't a musical storyteller, she is THE musical storyteller, and everything she does is in her natural habitat is wild and wonderful and worth watching.
Broadway, The Maye Way premiered May 8th and is available on demand HERE through May 29th.