At 86, Broadway Veteran GEORGE MARCY Sings and Taps His Way Into Hearts At Don't Tell Mama
Cabaret Reviews and Commentary by Stephen Hanks
Now that the legendary Elaine Stritch and Julie Wilson have retired from performing, the only celebrity 80-plusers who are still regulars on the cabaret circuit are the equally legendary Barbara Cook and Marilyn Maye. But now there's another octogenarian on the scene and while he may not be a legend, George Marcy is an 86-year-old former Broadway musical theater actor/dancer who recently staged a totally charming and entertaining show at Don't Tell Mama.
Marcy was the understudy to Ken LeRoy in the role of "Bernardo"--opposite Chita Rivera's "Anita"--in the original Broadway production of West Side Story in 1957 and subsequently played in more than 850 performances between Broadway and various out-of-town productions. Marcy also appeared in the original Broadway productions of Damn Yankees (1955), Carnival! (1961), Billy (1969), and played Conrad Birdie in out-of-town productions of Bye, Bye, Birdie (1967).
Marcy certainly didn't seem 86, let alone over 40, during the second night of his recent show I Wish I Were Twins at Don't Tell Mama (September 23 and 29). Wonderfully and sensitively directed by his close friend Carol Lawrence, West Side Story's original "Maria," Marcy bounded onto the stage wearing a black vest and red hat and opened with the up-tempo Lee Adams/Charles Strouse song "Stick Around," from the 1964 musical Golden Boy and set the tone for the evening: "Stick around, things are gonna happen . . . Fireworks, stick around and see . . ." Fireworks? This veteran hoofer performed as if he was shot out of a cannon, producing the energy and spirit of a man, well, 60 years younger. "I'm 86 and I don't need a walker," Marcy proudly proclaimed and then proceeded to prove it by tapping his way through Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren's "I Wanna Be a Dancin' Man."
There probably isn't a more honest and heartfelt reading of Herbert Kretzmer's lyric of the Charles Aznavour ballad "Yesterday When I Was Young" then when it comes from someone with almost a century of life experience and Marcy's take on the song was the ideal mix of emotion laced with tenderness. He then donned a black sequin jacket and black top hat and returned to Fred Astaire mode, showing off his still finely tuned rhythmic sense on Irving Berlin's "Putting On The Ritz," with a little bit of Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot" tacked on for good measure. Another hat change came--purple this time--for Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man," with Marcy's Musical Director/Pianist Christine Sutin (who did a fine job throughout, as did Boots Maleson on bass and Aaron Russell on drums) leading him on a lounge lizardy arrangement that Marcy pulled off with a solid rendition of Cohen's seductive lyrics.
It would be a total upset if someone of Marcy's background didn't nail Stephen Sondheim's "Broadway Baby" and the old trooper came through, knocking it out of the park with energy to spare. Marcy and Lawrence made a savvy choice having the performer speak-sing the lyric to "I Understand," turning it into a number of wistfulness and longing. But that was nothing compared to the emotional reaction Marcy engendered as he dramatically alternated from singing to talking on Charles Aznavour's transgender soliloquy "What Makes a Man a Man."
Marcy showed off remarkable endurance and resilience for a man his age with a finale on the up-tempo "Happy Ending," the Danny Kaye number from the 1951 film On The Riviera. "Performing is what I have to do to feel alive," Marcy told a supportive audience, before offering a heartfelt version of Peter Allen's "Once Before I Go." And what could be more self-revealing than an 86-year-old Broadway musical theater warhorse still spry enough to tap dance around a stage singing this lyric: Once before I go, I want you to know . . . That I would do it all again . . . I'm sure I'd make the same mistakes . . . But I could make it through, the pains and joys and aches . . . I knew back then, I'd do it all . . . I'd do it all again
Something tells me that before he goes, George Marcy will be doing it all again, not once but many times. Keep on tappin', George.