by Sandi Durell. . .

In the words of the great Johnny Mercer, Marilyn Maye’s above all favorite songwriter, his lyrics express it all  . . . you’re just to marvelous for words!  One might easily say what more is there to write after seeing the grand dame of cabaret on her opening night October 12 at 54 Below! But you know it would not be possible to stop here.

The house was packed and you could feel the sizzling expectation in the room as Marvelous Marilyn Maye, dressed in a silver and black sequin pants suit, took the stage, her band of renown – Tedd Firth on piano music director, Tom Hubbard on bass, Mark McLean on drums – ready and waiting to open the evening (featuring 36 Johnny Mercer tunes).

Tedd Firth – Marilyn Maye – Tom Hubbard – Mark McLean

My set list gives insight into the clever arranging of an evening of Johnny Mercer songs put into sub-categories, featuring the songs for which he wrote both music and lyrics and the various composers he wrote with.  To be more specific the opening Medley featured uptempo tunes i.e. “Day In, Day Out”/” Too Marvelous for Words”/” Jeepers Creepers”/ “Something’s Gotta Give” melded and blended (as only Marilyn can).

Needless to say, there’s always room for a Maye parody of which there were several. What makes an evening with Ms. Maye notable is her exquisite detail to lyric interpretation aside from shaking your head in wonderment as to the power of her voice which seems to only get better and . . . she’s lots of fun and very playful.


To name but a few songs: there was an Angels Medley (“And The Angels Sing”/” Dearly Beloved”/ “ Fools Rush In”); a Female Name Medley (“Emily”/ “Laura”/ “Tangerine”); an Autumn Medley  (“When October Goes”- an MM favorite); a Saloon Medley (“Drinkin’ Again”/ “One For My Baby (and One More for the Road“); a Revenge Medley (“I Wanna Be Around”/ “Goody Goody”) . . . the latter few songs a vignette of strong feelings, emotions and razor sharp focus.

The band received their just due throughout the night but really shined on  “Come Rain or Come Shine.” The tempos ranged from swing to bossa to jazz waltz and beautiful ballads – “Skylark” and a Dream Medley – “Moon River”/ “Dream”/ “Hit the Road to Dreamland.”

Stand-alone Mercer tunes like “Blues in the Night” and “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe” rounded out the enveloping love in the room.

Marilyn with Lee Roy Reams

Yes, Marilyn Maye is clear out of this world and when you sit in her audience you experience every emotion imaginable (and many a teary eye) and have an added bonus . . . you walk out singing/humming every tune. Now that’s the remarkable, can-never-be-replaced advantage of the American Songbook – songs that will be around forever!

Marilyn Maye will be at 54 Below (254 West 54 St. NYC) thru October 22 – reservations/tickets: 646.476.3551  and live-streamed on Oct. 22.

Photos: Melissa Griegel Photography