MARILYN MAYE’S NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTION!
“Marilyn By Request” at NYC’s Metropolitan Room
It has become something of a tradition on December 31st at the New York City music hotspot The Metropolitan Room for the least few years: Having legendary chanteuse Marilyn Maye sing a lucky audience into the new year. New Year’s Eve 2013 was no exception, as a packed house got to see and hear just what made Ms. Maye one of cabaret’s most enduring performers for decades. Maye had no intentions of letting the festivities end at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. Fast forward two days. January 3rd, 2014 may have been one of the coldest nights in New York City in a long time, but it was H-O-T inside The Metropolitan Room that Friday night. The evening was a kickoff for “Marilyn By Request,” in which Maye and her Billy Stritch-led band created a new show based on audience requests and ageless favorites. Apparently, both the audience and Marilyn know how to pick ’em. This is a set that featured a wide range of crowd-pleasers: from Marilyn seductively crooning Donaldson/Kahn’s timeless, “My buddy, my buddy; Your buddy… misses…YOU!”; to “Paradise Cafe”, the song she calls “the story of my life”; to playfully corrupting “If I Were a Rich Man” into “If I HAD a Rich Man”; to a lively musical tribute to New York City. More about that later…
The 85-years-young singer was as lively, dynamic, and funny as ever, getting right into the act with one of her signature songs, the pounding-with-passion “Golden Rainbow”. She seemingly made eye contact with everyone in the audience, and had a very palpable rapport with both the crowd as well as her three-man band. Her voice is as strong and unblemished as ever– at times seeming to have been preserved in crystal– and bearing ever-so-small a grain of well-deserved huskiness. She still hits those high notes and can still delivery an occasional sexy growl (You know what I mean!). Next up was the timeless classic “Old Friends” from the Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along”, where her voice was adorned only by Stritch’s piano. After that was “I Love Being Here With You”. Originally made famous by Peggy Lee, the song seemed to perfectly express Maye’s sheer love of performing that night. The audience, in turn, loved Maye’s renditions of the McHugh/Fields jazz fave “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”, the Gershwin brothers’ classic “Embraceable You”, and Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” which segued into “Am I Blue?”. And, I personally challenge anyone to hear Maye’s high-energy “On the Street Where You Live” (from “My Fair Lady”) and not to start movin’ and shakin’. More classics followed, and Maye even brought a few true lost musical gems to the show, including “Rain”, reportedly a request by an audience member. This “Rain” wasn’t Madonna’s 1992 hit (before you ask) but rather the the story of the famous Miss Sadie Thompson… a story about “a missionary, some jazz records, some Coca-Cola, and… the rain!” As you may imagine, the song was a high-energy camp delight. Speaking of delight, the diva brought the house down with a pair of tunes made famous by women of country music: “You Pick Me Up (And Put Me Down)”, followed by an increasingly frenetic and riotous rendition of “Crackers” (As in “You can eat crackers in my bed anytime!“).
Ms. Maye proclaimed her love for New York City during the show, and the night concluded with a musical tribute to the town, starting with Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” and finishing with the ultimate anthem to the Big Apple, Kanter and Ebb’s “New York, New York”… with a lot of skyscraper-lit nostalgia in between. Throughout the show, most of Marilyn Maye’s selections were seemingly written just for her: lyrics about love, life, and… love for life. I won’t give away her big finale, except to say that like most of the show, it perfectly captured the singer’s playful spirit and “joie de vivre”.
After the show, I asked Ms. Maye if she had any New Year’s resolutions. She told me, “Oh, I have none! Just to keep moving! ‘Keep moving!’ is the answer to all things… and also, ‘Cherish every day’!”
2014 is off to a really great start!
“Marilyn By Request” continues on January 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th at New York City’s Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd St., New York, NY 10010. Call (212) 206-0440 or visit here for more info!