BWW Reviews: MAUDE MAGGART is a Delightfully Dreamy Enchantress at Café Carlyle
Cabaret Reviews and Commentary by Stephen Hanks
Did you ever hear a dream talking? Well, I did. Did you ever see a dream moving? Well, I certainly did. Did you ever hear a dream singing? Well, I definitely did.
And I finally saw and heard said dream talking, moving, and singing this past Tuesday evening in the person of Maude Maggart, a celebrated young veteran of the cabaret scene who was starting her debut run at the Café Carlyle (which ends tonight with shows at 8:45 pm and 10:45 pm). I had been anxious to see Maggart in a full show since I'd first heard her lovely voice two years ago during the Cabaret Convention at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall. Her new show certainly didn't disappoint, at least not in the singing department. Throughout a 16-song set, this attractive and willowy brunette from a performing family that now spans three generations (including her alt rock singer/songwriter sister Fiona Apple) was a delightfully dreamy enchantress conveying retro-romantic songs she delivered with the ethereal mezzo soprano style of an early Disney movie heroine of pre-Little Mermaid vintage, only one more worldly wise and seductive.
Maggart called this new show The Door Opened and that title wasn't as mysterious as it sounded once she floated her way like a singing angel on a cloud through songs dealing with the various stages of love she musically equated with being in a dreamlike state. In opening her show with three songs from Depression era black and white films ("Give Me a Heart to Sing To," which Helen Morgan sang in 1934's Frankie and Johnny; "I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful," delivered by Doris Day in 1950s Young Man With a Horn; and "Why Am I So Romantic, crooned by Lillian Roth in 1930 in the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers"), Maggart created a metaphor for the beginnings of infatuation and before the vibrant colors of intense love capture the heart.
On a Mabel Mercer song like "Is It Always Like This?" (written by Alec Wilder), Maggart displayed her breathy vocal quality, cooing to both sides of the Carlyle audience. She was downright mystical on both the show's title song (also from the Mabel Mercer canon) and then on "Where Do I Go?" from the musical Hair, sounding less like a 1960s flower child and more like an Arthurian character from the pages of The Mists of Avalon. But the show really hit its stride about halfway through when Maggart was almost spiritual on the Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley standard "Pure Imagination," one of the best versions of this oft-sung tune I've heard in a cabaret show. Carlos Antonio Jobim's bossa melody on "Lost In Wonderland" (with surreal-like lyrics from Alice's point of view by Maggart's close friend and mentor Marshall Barer) is a challenging one that meanders up and down the musical scale, but Maggart (with help from her fine Musical Director/Pianist John Boswell) made it seem even more effortless than Barbra Streisand's version (reportedly from 1969 recording sessions and on Streisand's 2012 compilation album Release Me).
With this show, Maggart proves that she is one of the few cabaret performers who can sustain an almost one-tempo, ballad-heavy show from start to finish and not have the audience tune out or mentally clamoring for an up-tempo tune or a belted 11 o'clock showstopper. The dream theme continued in the second half with Mack Gordon and Harry Revel's "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?" Cole Porter's "Wake Up and Dream," and Edward Heyman and Johnny Green's "Out of Nowhere" (Bing Crosby's first number one hit as a solo artist in 1931), during which Maggart was so dreamily seductive you wanted to be her knight in shining armor and whisk her away to a nearby pied-a-terre. (Please click on Page 2 below to continue.)
The end of the show seemed divinely inspired, as Maggart connected the first verse of the Marshall Barer lyric for the song "You Can't Go Home Again," to a lovely version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." At that point one could also interpret the show's title as an allusion to the film The Wizard of Oz, where once the door to Dorothy's Kansas house opens after it lands in a place only a dream can conjure, she leaves a plain black and white world and enters into one of magical colors and a search for home and love. When "Rainbow" segues into Irving Berlin's "I Used to Be Color Blind," Maggart's Dorothy-like journey from a loveless black and white world into a full spectrum of romantic emotions has reached its destination. And at the Carlyle on opening night, the audience seemed only too happy to be going along on this dreamy singer's ride.
Photo by Stephen Sorokoff