Review: Marilyn Maye Reigns Super-Supreme at 54 Below

Run extends thru May 6

By: Apr. 12, 2024
Review: Marilyn Maye Reigns Super-Supreme at 54 Below
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April has been quite the month for amazing things.  First there was the earthquake.  Then there was the eclipse.  This week there were reports of a meteor streaking across skies in the area.  Now another natural wonder has arrived and is creating a thunderous storm in New York.  I refer to the whirlwind known as singer Marilyn Maye and the vociferous reception that greeted her on the opening night of her already extended engagement celebrating her 96th birthday. I saw the opening night show on April 9th, but there are more dates this month and in May.

There’s nothing like this spellbinder and the palpable joy that explodes when she entertains (or merely enters).  And one of the lines she sings certainly continues to apply and could be appropriately sung to her: “You're still glowin', you're still crowin', you're still goin' strong.”  When the peppy lady launched into that number, the title song of Hello, Dolly!, she replaced the waiters’ names in the original Jerry Herman lyric with names of people she knew were in the crowd.  There was quite a lot of Herman during this home run of a show, with selections from that score and Mame (she’d played the strong title roles in both over the years, telling us that she likes when the star part of a musical is a woman “who rules the world”) and there was a little more from the composer/lyricist’s oeuvre with La Cage aux Folles’s “I Am What I Am,” which she outfitted with her own additional words.  

The arrangements are exciting and savvy.  The dynamic doozy of a show was far longer than your typical cabaret act, but nobody seemed tired – certainly not the star, who was in strong voice throughout.  Some might be reminded of the famous Judy Garland comment at her concert when the fans shouted out many song requests and she replied, “I’ll sing ‘em all and we’ll stay all night!” and they roared their approval.  There had been a couple of requests on this first night of the run (that continues through this month and into the next); apparently someone had asked her to do the title number from the short-lived 1967 Broadway musical Sherry! And so she did.  The theme for the act is songs from Broadway scores, so that item, which is among others she’d recorded, certainly fit.  Other musicals sampled included My Fair Lady, getting five representations, including “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.”  As she sang the character’s wish to get away from it all in a room, taking it easy, sitting still on “one enormous chair,” I was reminded of the fact that, unlike many a singer, the indefatigable Miss Maye, aka Miss Energy, chooses to never sit on stage.                   

Review: Marilyn Maye Reigns Super-Supreme at 54 Below Pianist Tedd Firth was especially on fire and on point.  His solos dazzled.  The interaction between the two is relaxed and fun to watch: If he catches Maye’s gaze after a catchy phrase, she might ask him to repeat it because it tickles her fancy.  If she doesn’t remember what the next number on the long set list is, he’ll cutely cue her with a quote from the melody; if mid-song, a bit of a lyric escapes her and she’s prompted by him or the audience, she’ll follow the slip with a quip, getting a laugh.  Joining Firth The Fantastic, as they often do for Maye marathons, were two other splendid musicians: bassist Tom Hubbard and drummer Mark McLean.  

Along the way, there were some comments for context, but not much news for those of us who have seen Marilyn Maye over and over and followed her career: she talked about how her recording of “Step to the Rear” led to special lyric adaptations for it to be used as a theme song for local politicians and for a car commercial (“That was a nice check”), how she worked on a potential revival of the musical Ballroom, was the first to record “Cabaret,” and that her favorite musical of all is Guys and Dolls, launching into that score’s “Luck Be a Lady.”  But it’s the audience that’s always in luck when this lady takes the stage.

The photos here are from the opening night show, taken by Conor Weiss; for the full set, click here.

Find more shows at 54 Below on their website.

Visit Marilyn Maye online at


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