Review - Marilyn Maye & Michael Garin and Mardie Millit

This past Friday afternoon I read that this person has been meeting with producers to consider the possibility of appearing on Broadway, in order to, "expand her brand by taking to the stage." That evening I heard the 82-year-old Marilyn Maye, after nearly ninety minutes of superlative interpretations of musical theatre classics from the likes of Jerry Herman, Frank Loesser and Kander and Ebb, tell her completely enthralled audience that it's still her ambition to one day be on Broadway, before emoting a beautifully vulnerable "Losing My Mind" that segued into a classy and celebratory "I'm Still Here" that brought just about the entire packed Metropolitan Room house to its feet in one of the most adoring ovations I've ever seen.

The miracle of Marilyn Maye is that her wise and insightful way with lyrics, developed from nearly eight decades of experience singing musical theatre songs (She was named for Marilyn Miller and made her stage debut singing "Look For The Silver Lining" in a talent show.) is matched with warm, inviting vocals from secure and healthy pipes that a 30-year-old would envy.

Her Kind of Broadway might seem an inappropriate title for an evening with a lady who has never set foot on a Times Square stage but Marilyn Maye's special place on the street was secured in the 1960s, when, contracted to RCA Records, she was frequently assigned to record singles from upcoming Broadway shows for which the company held the original cast recording rights, in hopes to build interest with a hit song before opening night. It was Maye who first had hit singles of "Cabaret" and "I'll Never Fall In Love Again," as well as the title tune from Sherry! and, her most lucrative recording, How Now Dow Jones' "Step To The Rear," which she also sang for three years worth of Lincoln Mercury commercials and for various political campaigns. ("We're not really into politics. We just get paid to do it.")

While Maye has played some of musical theatre's great ladies (Dolly, Mame, Sally, Carlotta) in regional productions, her older sister, Joy Hodges, did have a Broadway career, most notably as the original "Miss Jones" in Rodgers and Hart's I'd Rather Be Right, co-introducing the standard "Have You Met Miss Jones," which younger sis jazzily swings in her honor. My Fair Lady's "On The Street Where You Live," and "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" are also given a light jazz touch, with some freestyle scatting on the latter. A medley from Guys and Dolls has a hip waltz version of "Luck Be A Lady" and a slightly naughty rendering of "If I Were A Bell" sandwiching lovely renditions of "I'll Know" and "I've Never Been In Love Before." She switches to another classic Loesser score, The Most Happy Fella, making "Joey, Joey, Joey" a soft and seductive siren's call.

In a more boisterous mood, just as Dolly Gallagher Levi greets her old pals in the lyric of "Hello, Dolly!," Marilyn Maye used the song on opening night to say hello to her friends who certainly felt the room swaying. (A certain entertainment lawyer, well-known to the theatre community, was serenaded with, "You're looking swell, Sendroff; I can tell, Sendroff...") Her rapport with the audience seems effortless and sincere and by the time she gets to the lyric, "Look at the old girl now," only the hardest of hearts wouldn't be inspired to give the little lady a great big hand.

Maye is joined by her regular trio of top-notch musicians; Jim Eklof on drums, Tom Hubbard on bass and the dynamic Tedd Firth at piano. (Seats with a view of his hands in action should be sold at a premium.)

After one of her 76 appearances on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson looked directly into the camera and advised any young singers watching to listen to Marilyn Maye's records if they want to learn, "how it's done." I'm no Johnny Carson, but I humbly advise any inexperienced celebrity looking to "expand your brand" by performing in a Broadway musical to go see Marilyn Maye at the Metropolitan Room if they'd like to learn "how it's done."

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