We kicked off the month by catching Marilyn Maye in her debut at Feinstein's at the Regency. Let us preface this by admitting that Feinstein's is our least favorite room in town, and, in all honesty, we've seen and heard the marvelous Marilyn do much better shows, and in better voice.
It's a testament to her brilliance, then, that even when fighting against an awkwardly-arranged room; a crowd for whom "hip" is usually associated with "replacement," rather than being "in the know"; and the unusual-for-Maye occasional misstep in song choice; this 82-year-young dynamo still puts across an act which is better than any other cabaret or nightclub performance you're likely to see by any other performer in this lifetime.
The Maye faithful have religiously followed her annual appearances at The Metropolitan Room downtown, appearances hallmarked by not only Maye's now-legendary chops and professionalism, but also a brilliant, laser-like precision in sequencing, formatting and execution. Her programs are not only master classes in singing, but in song choice and placement. But even when gamely giving a "newbie" audience a greatest hits, throw-everything-at-'em-and-see-what-sticks repertoire, Maye, as always, has the ability to create magic. A deliciously sensual "Lazy Afternoon" was sublime, seguing into Blossom Dearie's sexy, soulful "Bye Bye Country Boy." The latter is quickly becoming a Maye signature, along the lines of Murray Grand's terrific soap operetta, "Guess Who I Saw Today." Maye has sung that song so often, she could probably do it in her sleep and still be effective; thankfully, she's the 100% committed pro that she is, and totally devastates the crowd each and every time.
Other highlights: Steve Allen's lovely, little-heard "I Love You Today" (from MM's 1965 debut album for RCA); the glorious roof-raiser "Golden Rainbow" (the title song from Steve and Eydie's infamous 1967 Broadway show, and another favorite from Maye's RCA catalog); Sondheim's "Being Alive" cleverly bookended by Schwartz and Dietz' "By Myself"; Maye's now-famous seven-song-strong Cole Porter medley; and Porter's exuberant "I'm in Love Again" interpolated with a gorgeously-sung "I've Got a Crush on You" by the brothers Gershwin. The incomparable trio of pianist Tedd Firth, drummer Jim Ekloff, and bassist Tom Hubbard played their buns off, and added greatly to the evening's musical high points.
"I Love You Today"? Even in a less-than-perfect room, and with a slightly flawed program, Marilyn Maye has our affection forever and a day. And, thanks to the auspices of our darling friend Drew, we managed to sneak backstage after the show; and La Maye even remembered meeting us a few months before, or was sweet enough to pretend same. We left floating on air, high on the scent of her perfume and the lingering deliciousness of her talent. Later this week: reportage on performances by Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein; KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler; and Joyce Breach and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.
Life is a cabaret!