By Sandi Durell
Yes, this is what Marilyn Maye says is her middle name! And why not! It’s a special treat to hear how Ms. M orchestrates in and through the string of songs that make up several medleys within the context of a full show. Not something to take lightly as it takes a well-seasoned, extraordinary entertainer like Marvelous Marilyn to create these iconic medleys and make them work.
With the incomparable Tedd Firth leading a sixteen piece Big Band, the night had no end as stars and lights twinkled in the background outside of the Appel Room at Lincoln Center amidst a colorful rainbow of design as added backdrop for the closing night show. Ms. Maye had already performed three shows – two on Friday evening October 27, and the earlier show, prior to the one I attended, on Saturday October 28.
Going back to medley mania, here’s an example with a little story about favorite composer Johnny Mercer who understood singers because he was one. Although Marilyn came close to a face-to-face meeting with her favorite composer when recording at RCA, Mercer in a nearby studio, it never materialized. He wrote her a note saying “Your version of “Misty” is the best” – – enough for her to go running down the hall to thank him. But, alas, he’d already gone across the street to the bar where she quickly sped to find him – gone. But the medley of Mercer tunes is outstanding . . . including “Day In, Day Out,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Something’s Gotta Give” (nice arrangement!), “Come Rain or Come Shine” (lilting, lovely tempos). See what I mean!
Funny how sad songs are so popular – people love to sit around drinking and crying – her most requested song being “Guess Who I Saw Today” (Murray Grand/Elisse Boyd) that embarks on a little story line where three months later this same lady is in the same bar -“Here’s That Rainy Day”as the playful Marilyn segues into a wailing “Stormy Weather” – still at the bar finally deciding to “Put On a Happy Face” (with some interesting turn on lyrics).
One of her favorite tunes is from the musical Ballroom, “Fifty Percent” (Billy Goldenberg, Alan & Marilyn Bergman), an intense, knock your socks off rendition that can tear at your heartstrings. One of my favorites is “Honeysuckle Rose” (Fats Waller/AndyRazaf) as she squeezes every ounce of double entendre with trombonist Art Baron wailing at her side.
Somehow 90 minutes passed in the blink of an eye and she was singing her mantra “Secret O’ Life” (James Taylor) and the well earned “Here’s to Life,” accompanied by guitarist and long time friend Rod Fleeman – poignant, especially meaningful coming from this 89 year old icon who is younger in spirit with more energy than many kids I know.
Want another Marilyn fix? She’s back in New York to Lincoln Center at Dizzy’s Coca Cola Feb. 15-18, 2018 and then returns to 54 Below on her 90th Birthday April 10, 2018 for a run.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto