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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Also at The Metropolitan Room, I caught the last performance of Michael Garin and Mardie Millit's giddily fun romp that could legitimately be called Sleepless... In September (named for the fact that Garin is working on the score for the Broadway-bound tuner based on Sleepless in Seattle). They return for bi-monthly gigs in November, January and February, re-titled Sleepless... Since September, but this popular pair can (and should) be caught nightlife-ing it up, as a twosome or individually, in venues all over town,

The tongue-in-cheek quirkiness of their eclectic mix of, "standards from around the world... and beyond!," brings to mind the cute couple chemistry of legendary duos like Steve & Eydie and Keely & Louis. While the classy Millit is equally adept at jazzy vocals, legit arias and the kind of scatting that occasionally wanders into Spike Jones territory, Garin is the gregarious, piano playing showman. Both are quick with a clever quip. (I found an Atlas Shrugged reference in the middle of "Route 66" to be especially rib-tickling.)

The "around the world" aspect of the night gets off to a rapid-fire start, pairing "Pata, Pata" with "Grazin' In the Grass" (Millit spits out the "I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it" section with crisp clarity.) before an easy-going rendition of "The Sunny Side of the Street" that has Garin breaking out the spoons. ("My God, he's got flatware.")

Millit shows off her Neapolitan chops with "Santa Lucia," but doesn't play it straight for long as she segues into her home state's official song, "Beautiful Ohio." To give us an idea of the regionalisms she had to escape from in order to sing New York cabaret, she warbles a bit of a thickly-accented "The Nearness of You" with hilarious results. In a similar vein, I won't reveal the punch line that follows her intensely defiant rendering of the Edith Piaf classic, "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien."

The original material by Garin also provides plenty of punch lines, including tunes about straight guys' attraction to lesbians, insects that do all sorts of nasty things to their mates and a very funny sequence of little-known "first drafts" of famous songs. (See if you can guess the Funny Girl standard that's matched with a classic movie line.) The title "Eddie Cantor Saved My Mother" may sound like the name of a comedy song, but, in one of the show's few completely serious moments, it's actually a very touching tribute to an altruistic act done by the great entertainer to help European Jews escape from the Nazis.

With a combination of geeky charm and glossy wit, and a clearly visible affection for each other, Michael Garin and Mardie Millit are delightfully entertaining.

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They say we've become a society anesthetized from violent images since the days when graphic television news footage from Vietnam helped spark the largest anti-war movement this country had seen up until that time. But the video clips from Gaza shown in Pulitzer-winning journalist Lawrence Wright's solo piece, The Human Scale, are enough to test any playgoer's stomach.

In one clip we see the bloodied, but still recognizable bodies of a family, including several young children, whose day at the shore was cut short by being gunned down. The camera then notices a frightened 12-year-old girl, who suddenly begins running toward a sand dune, only to collapse in hysterics when she sees her father's corpse leaning up against it.

In another, we see riot police under orders to "break their bones" holding a teenage rock-thrower down while another slams his arms with a hammer.

Later, there's an interview segment from a news program where two young children of a suicide bomber - one looks around 5, the other around 8 - seem very pleased that mommy is now in paradise.

Under Oscar Eustis' direction, Wright introduces and comments on these visuals with the even tone of a journalist in a soothingly soft voice that is calming in its emotional distance.

More of a multi-media lecture than a play, Wright's observations are triggered from a 2006 incident where 19-year-old Israeli Sergeant Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas, who demanded 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (later upped to 1,400) for his safe return; prisoners who, no doubt, will simply rejoin the hostilities once freed. Thus The Human Scale not only analyses the historical, political, social and religious reasons for the centuries-long stalemate of violent exchanges, but places a good deal of blame for the helplessness of The Situation on the different interpretations the two cultures have in evaluating the worth of a human life.

Though decidedly untheatrical, the presentation is always intriguing. A bit of comic relief is allowed when Wright uses clips from an old black and white Hollywood Biblical epic to explain ancient conflicts, but one moment which seems so absurd that you'd think it was just a bad SNL comedy sketch shows the, perhaps, 10-year-old hostess of children's television program telling viewers how her loveable bunny friend (an adult in a furry costume lying dead on a bed) was martyred in the struggle for freedom and that they should be willing to do the same whenever the moment arrives.

Photo of Lawrence Wright and Sergeant Gilad Shalit (on screens) by Joan Marcus.

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"Personally, coming out was one of the most important things I've ever done, lifting from my shoulders the millstone of lies that I hadn't even realized I was carrying."
-- Ian McKellen

The grosses are out for the week ending 10/10/2010 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: FELA! (17.9%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (14.3%), CHICAGO (13.3%), MARY POPPINS (12.7%), THE LION KING (11.8%), WEST SIDE STORY (10.6%), MEMPHIS (8.0%), ROCK OF AGES (7.7%), LOMBARDI (7.5%), A LIFE IN THE THEATRE (6.3%), BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL (5.8%), NEXT TO NORMAL (5.5%), MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (5.4%), THE ADDAMS FAMILY (5.2%), PROMISES, PROMISES (4.5%), A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (3.5%), IN THE HEIGHTS (2.7%), LA BETE (1.9%), MAMMA MIA! (1.2%), JERSEY BOYS (1.0%), BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON (0.6%),

Down for the week was: AMERICAN IDIOT (-37.8%), MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION (-17.0%), THE PITMEN PAINTERS (-14.6%), BRIEF ENCOUNTER (-13.3%), LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (-1.5%), TIME STANDS STILL (-1.2%), WICKED (-0.6%),

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