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BWW Review: Marilyn Maye BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH Causes a Riot at 54 Below

BWW Review: Marilyn Maye BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH Causes a Riot at 54 Below

We, as humans, wake every day and breathe air. We have blood in our veins. And we live. We, though, are merely humans. The otherworldly Marilyn Maye wakes every day and breathes music, and that music flows through every part of her, rather than air or blood. Marilyn Maye might well be a gift from the gods. Or Marilyn Maye could be a Goddess. What Marilyn Maye is not, though, is merely human. Superhuman? Possible. Very, very possible.

A voice at 54 Below announces "Marvelous Marilyn Maye!" but the voice is actually wrong. The announcement should be "Marvel, Marilyn Maye!" because what the venerated singer, the bona fide Godmother of Cabaret, is is simply the best in the business, a miracle in black pumps, still doing high kicks at 91 and singing the way she did when she was 30. Maye makes no bones about her age, joking about it and telling the audience her age is the joke in most of her show titles. This show is titled BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH but she wondered, from the stage, what her birthday show in April will be called. Famed attorney Mark Sendroff called from his seat "92 AND I'M NOT THROUGH," inspiring in Maye one of the quizzical facial expressions for which she is as famous as her music. The truth is that what Ms. Maye does on the stage would be impressive for a performer of any age - it would also EXHAUST a performer of any age! That is what makes Marilyn Maye a marvel: she's not tired. At the end of her ninety minute show she was, very clearly, ready to go again. As if to prove it, she saved her most vigorous number for the last: her signature, high kicking "It's Today," which audiences have come to expect, and for which they wait, because the moment they heard her say "Light the candles," people began to applaud and utter cries of "Oh, Yay" and the like. Marilyn Maye's fans know what to expect when they go to one of her shows, and she always gives it to them: Perfection.

Luminous in her black sequined pantsuit, Ms. Maye takes the stage at Feinstein's/54 Below, and then she takes the room. With unshakable moxie, Maye plays with audience and musicians alike, classy enough to be a lady, brassy enough to be a broad, she swings and she croons, she whispers and she shouts. She may be singing The American Songbook but she sings like a rock and roll singer, changing lyrics to famous songs to suit her needs - and the song parodies are magnificently crafted and served up on a silver platter for the room of cheering aficionados of great music and screaming devotees of prime talent. And the talent on the stage doesn't stop with Maye, as she is extremely apt to point out. Repeatedly, she turns to stage over to bassist Tom Hubbard (with whom she has a real connection during one of his solos, they being the coolest cats around), drummer Mark McLean (whom she spies with such respect and admiration, egging his percussive solo into higher heights than one suspects even he anticipated) and musical director Billy Stritch, with whom she has one of the greatest musical marriages of all time. And why not? Is anybody better than Billy Stritch? No, really, is anyone? The two of them talk back and forth at each other like a comedy duo, like Abbott and Costello, like Burns and Allen. They are as funny as can be, and they know exactly what will come next from each other and how to respond. She zigs and he zags, and the audience howls. And thank goodness she stepped behind the piano and had him sing because his is, unquestionably, the silkiest, sexiest singing from a boy one is likely to hear in a New York nightclub. Sublime. Sophisticated. Stunning. BUT HIS ARRANGEMENTS! Ok, that's enough of that.

BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH is actually a misnomer. It's a super cute title and a fun play on words from the youngest person I've seen this side of my grandson, no matter what her actual age. But there is no blame here. Blame comes when something is wrong, and wherever Marilyn Maye goes, everything is right. You will never find someone with such exquisite phrasing, with vocals so impeccable, with emotional ties so tenacious. This woman is the Meryl Streep of Music, the Judi Dench of Cabaret. She is, in simplest terms, The Greatest.

And when you have an opportunity to see The Greatest, dudes, do it.

Don't wait, don't ask, just go.

Marilyn Maye BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH continues at Feinstein's/54 Below through October 26th. For information and tickets visit the 54 Below Website

BWW Review: Marilyn Maye BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH Causes a Riot at 54 Below BWW Review: Marilyn Maye BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH Causes a Riot at 54 Below BWW Review: Marilyn Maye BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH Causes a Riot at 54 Below Photos by Stephen Mosher


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