I’ve often pondered the phenomenon known as Marvelous Marilyn Maye. What is that intangible that separates great singers and catapults a small handful into a category I call sublime?
I’d never even heard of Marilyn Maye until she appeared in the New York region via the Cabaret Convention, Donald Smith and the Mabel Mercer Foundation in 2006. Since then she’s had a rebirth, a new career that has hit her by storm and everyone she touches.
It’s not that she was an unknown. She’s worked all her professional life in the recording industry with the finest musicians and in the mid-west (she lives in Kansas City) where she’s enjoyed an on-going career as a much wanted jazz vocalist. In fact, she’d performed at some of the great night spots in New York thru the 60s – 80s: The Living Room (3 shows a night, 7 days a week), Copacabana, El Morocco, and with big bands. It’s a known fact Marilyn appeared on the Johnny Carson show 76 times! And Ella called her “the greatest white female singer in the world!”
After selling out the rooms at New York cabarets (Metropolitan Room, Feinstein’s) in the past couple of years, and most recently the nightclub 54 Below, this lady with the golden vocal chords, soon to turn 85 years of age, still worries whether she can fill a room. Well, I can tell you from experience, having attended all her New York City shows and both her opening and closing nights at 54 Below recently, the Marvelous Ms. Maye could probably have run one month and filled every seat in the house every night! Standing ovations throughout the night, shouts, sighs of pleasure, oohs and aahs, loud applause . . . nothing unusual. Because of these accolades and the fact that people just can’t get enough of her, she’s been extended for two shows on April 1st and 5th!
When she speaks or sings, it’s just to you. It’s personal. It’s here and now because that’s all there is. MM, with her jazz expertise and expressive hands, tells the story, the lyric a catalyst into the inner soul.
So what does Marilyn have to say about her “Maye-den Voyage” at 54 Below, ten shows later.
“I’m always worried about how I’m going to fill a room. I sympathize with the owners - I want them to make money so I can make money” . . . “ I love a big stage where I can really move and this one has it; the atmosphere is happy.”
“I was happy with the material I chose . . . I had thought about a new program; a lot of the material had been heard but it seemed new. The attention we received was wonderful and really helped. I wouldn’t change a thing.” “My voice worked – I could really relax here.”
“Oh, I think I’ll celebrate my birthday on the 5th. It’s actually April 10th.”
How does she feel about this 85th birthday? “I’m awfully glad I’m here, still standing on my feet, my health is good. I’m grateful and blessed.”
As for words of wisdom to her adoring fans - - “Sing it in the right key!”
To sum up, Marilyn Maye is one of the greatest singers ever! Hallelujah! You'll want to celebrate with her on April 1st and 5th at 54 Below 254 West 54th Street (Cellar) Reservations a MUST! (866) 468-7619. For more information and questions please call the club directly at: (646) 476-3551.