Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
February 25, 2014
I’ve been a fan of Maude Maggart ever since she made an appearance introduced by Andrea Marcovicci at the Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention years ago at Town Hall. That night Maggart sat on a piano and sang a stunning “Why Was I Born” in honor of Helen Morgan. A short time later I was in Los Angeles at the Gardenia open mic and Maggart sang Noel Coward‘s “I’ll See You Again” with the long show verse. The same night Ray Jessel sang one of his wicked originals and I approached him and complimented him on his “Baker Street” score. He told me he was bringing Maude to New York for his act and I suggested she sing “Finding Words For Spring” with him. She did and repeated the song whenever they were in New York together. The duet is on his CD. I was present at her debut solo show in San Francisco and have seen all her following shows in New York.
Each show has a theme and Maggart does prodigious research on every selection and imparts that information to her audiences in a joyful way. Today she is a stunning mature woman with a very low cut gown showing cleavage but she has the ability to transform herself into the young innocent when the song calls for it.
All of the above is a prelude to telling you to call immediately to the Café Carlyle to reserve to see Maude’s new show, “The Door Opened,” a show with an Alice in Wonderland theme about believing in your dreams. Most of her songs are from or have been featured in movies. Her opening number is “Give Me A Heart To Sing To,” a forgotten Ned Washington-Victor Young ballad that was in Helen Morgan’s 1936 movie “Frankie and Johnnie.” Without a break she does the original version of “I May Be Wrong (But I Think You’re Wonderful)” and reveals that her grandmother introduced that song! There are feisty stories about this lady as well as photographs including a wild one of the grandmother doing a high kick at age 81!
The door to dreams continues with Alec Wilder‘s, “Is It Always Like This? and Bart Howard‘s “The Door Opened,” both of which were sung by Mabel Mercer. The most unusual coupling is “Where Do I Go?” from “Hair” which she takes slowly and tenderly expressing all the heartbreak and despair of that pessimistic protest song but she melds right into the most joyful “Pure Imagination” making it seem like this is the first time you have ever heard this familiar cabaret standard.
It wouldn’t be a Maggart show without some stories and songs about the late Marshall Barer. She does the lyrics he wrote to Jobim melody “Lost in Wonderland” and tells an amusing story about being stranded by a snow storm and staying in his circular home with its outrageous interior and exterior decorations in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There is a story about Barer’s relationship with the legendary Ayn Rand and also about Barer’s love of the novelist Thomas Wolfe.
It takes a lot of nerve to sing “Over The Rainbow” today but Maggart sings the verse only first, melds into Barer’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” (music by David Raksin!) before singing the rest of “Over The Rainbow.” The mature Maggart transforms into the young Dorothy as she sings. In every selection her pianist and music arranger John Boswell superbly complements her, especially in the musical interludes of this selection before she returns to the lyric “If happy little bluebirds fly…” Her finale? A gloriously optimistic “My Romance,” and a sold out house couldn’t stop applauding. This is a great star of the 20th and 21st Century at her musical and performance zenith! I suggest you make a reservation immediately.
Maude Maggart “The Door Opened” repeats at the Café Carlyle, East 76th Street and Madison Avenue, Wednesday February 26 through Friday, February 28 at 8:45 PM and Saturday, March 1 at 8:45 PM and 10:45 PM. Call 212 744-1600 for reservations.