“I’m so glad you all showed up! I would have done it by myself!” Marilyn Maye exclaimed during her sensational concert at the 92nd Y’s Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall. “This is a fabulous theater! I’ve performed here I think five times…” She listed several group appearances she’d done. “But I’ve always wanted to be here with just me!”
Her fast paced show with a jazz trio raced from song to song seemingly lasting several hugely enjoyable hours but in reality was only a time-bending 75 soaring minutes. It was the 14th annual Kathryn W. Stein Memorial Concert. Proceeded by warm welcoming remarks by Himan Brown Charitable trust trustee Richard Kay, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and 92Y Himan Brown Senior Program director Jo Frances Brown, it began at 2:00 PM further adding to the time warp as it felt like an evening spectacular.
“Why so many songs about rainbows?” she rhetorically asked during her thrilling opening medley that began a cappella with “Look to the Rainbow” and continued with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “The Rainbow Connection.” Other rousingly clever combinations included “Come on Get Happy” paired with “I Want to Be Happy,” “When You’re Smiling” with “Put On A Happy Face,” “Old Friends” with “I Love Being Here With You,” and “The Secret of Life” with “Here’s To Life.”
She was a golden vision with her blonde hair, beige pantsuit, glittering jewelry and sparkling tunic. Her voice expressively ranged from lighthearted to wistful with superb mastery. She mentioned that several years ago she celebrated her 80th birthday while performing at The Metropolitan Room. “It got into The New York Times and they never forget and mention my age every year!” At this point in time several years later, that she is she is so dynamic is remarkable. With great comically timed patter, bold gestures and dance moves she physically as well as vocally put on a magnificent show.
“I’ve been a pauper, a poet—no! That’s not right! How does it go?” she feigned confusion as the audience called out lyrics before she launched into a rollicking “That’s Life.” Having seen the original cast of My Fair Lady, she was transfixed at observing Rex Harrison on the street soon after and “stalked him” she recounted before singing a touching “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face” and a jazzy “On the Street Where You Live.”
“It’s because of Steve I’m here. Or anywhere.” She reminisced about original Tonight Show host Steve Allen who discovered her in a Kansas City nightclub club. “I was there 11 years. I paid a lot of dues.” He put her on his television show many times. “I worked a lot with Steve. He was brilliant. A renaissance man. He’s in The Guinness Book of World Records for writing 8,000 songs. Some of them are very good.” She then did his bouncy “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” and “I Love You Today (Good Morning, My Dear)” from the flop Broadway show Sophie.
In the 1960’s she popularized a number of Broadway musical songs before the shows opened including “Step to the Rear” from How Now, Dow Jones. She rerecorded for a Lincoln Mercury car commercial that led to a lucrative career that included jingles for banks and an insect repellant. “You haven’t lived until you’ve heard ‘Real Kill.’ That’s where the bread is.” She was the first artist to record “Cabaret” and she did it wonderfully her way.
Since 2006, she’s worked often in New York City and Murray Grand’s “Guess Who I Saw Today?” is the most requested song at her concerts she explained before singing this dramatic song about a wife’s discovery of her husband’s infidelity.
Johnny Carson nicknamed her “Super Singer” and she appeared on the Tonight Show with him 76 times, a record for a singer. Three times she did “Being Alive” there and marvelously did it again this afternoon combined with “By Myself.”
May Sings Ray is the title of her new CD and she humorously plugged this tribute to Ray Charles and sang special lyrics to his “Hallelujah I Love Her So.”
Expert lighting that included striking blackouts, half-lights and the house lights being raised when she bantered with the audience and did “You’re Just Too Good To Be True” greatly enhanced the event.
Tedd Firth on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and Bryan Carter on drums were the epitome of cool. The unison of their superb musical talents was in total harmony with Ms. Maye and she appreciatively relied on them. An extended version of Jerry Herman’s “It’s Today” with her limberly dancing and high kicking was the joyous affirmative finale.
Marilyn Maye: The 14th Annual Kathryn W. Stein Memorial Concert (June 17th 2014)
92nd Street Y, Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Avenue, at 92nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212- 415-5500 or visit http://www.92y.org
Running time: 75 minutes without intermission