His images of Marilyn Monroe in her final portrait sitting are burned into our consciousness. Read my review of the fantastic new documentary about Bert Stern in FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL here
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Read my review of this new documentary here
It’s not at all hard to see why Marilyn Maye was Johnny Carson’s favorite singer, appearing some 76 times on the Tonight Show. From her big New York comeback at the Metropolitan Room in 2006, where she stunned a heard-it-all, jaded cabaret audience with the ravishing, imperishable freshness of her voice and phrasing, she has been a happily constant presence in Manhattan.
With “Maye-den Voyage”, her show at 54 Below, she does nothing but consolidate her eminence as the reigning queen of cabaret. Name one other singer who brings such mellifluous tonality, supernal phrasing, emotional resonance, and, essentially, pure ebullient joy to her work. A Cole Porter medley started her set and, resplendent in red, she opened with that killer charmer, “Looking at You,” which had me immediately in her silken pocket, with its lovely evocation of two other cabaret aristocrats who loved to sing it: Mabel Mercer and Bobby Short. She wove her bewitching way through “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Just One of Those Things,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and a splendidly sexy “All of You,” making each one of these oft-done chestnuts utterly her own.
People blather on about the importance of hearing new or more varied music in cabaret, but let’s face it, the Great American Songbook is what we all really love and want to hear, especially as done by one of its last remaining truly great interpreters. Maye’s brilliance was completely matched by the unmatched piano stylings of the greatest accompanist in the business right now, Ted Firth. Their superbly sinuous interaction, with each taking a cue from the other’s sublimely hip and fluid approach to these familiar tunes was pure magic, pure jazz, causing listener endorphins to positively flood the room.
One after another, like gloriously triumphant cannon volleys, came the beloved standards, often cannily entwined in wonderfully chosen musical bouquets: a rapturous “Get Happy Medley” (with happy guy Vincent Youmans’ “I Want to Be Happy” and Sometimes I’m Happy”), a throbbing “Lover Man” with “When Your Lover Has Gone,” a shimmering ”Lazy Afternoon” with Blossom Dearie’s “Bye Bye Country Boy.”
The songs of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer demand a seasoned performer who can bring authentic, hard-won life experience – as well as excellent pipes – to really put them across, otherwise the rendition, however prettily sung, can seem just paltry and bland. Maye, like the late Margaret Whiting, has this in spades, and to hear her do “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home” or “Blues in the Night” is a simple master class in interpretation, or, more simply put, really feeling and knowing that music.
And, when it comes to sheer sophistication, Maye has few rivals, as witness the effortless, yet impassioned rueful humor and resignation she brings to those classic bar ditties, “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “Something Cool.” She makes you know this particular urban lady, who slips out of the afternoon sun and her mink into a dark boite for a drink and dawning self-discovery.
The Divine One, as I think she should now be officially dubbed, ended her set with a beneficent job on “On a Clear Day,” which simply made you, like it says in the song, glad to be alive. And, as if all that went before weren’t enough, she sizzlingly encored with Paul Desmond’s lyrics to “Take Five,” the complexity alone of which would easily defeat any singer a third of this magnificently ageless lady’s age. Incidentally, I don’t think she’ll mind my mentioning that this April 10. she turns an astounding 85.
EXTENDED! April 1 & 5, 2013
Cover charge: $40 – $50
That forever liberated woman and eternal, unabashedly proud feminist, Helen Reddy, is making a long overdue return to perform in NY…I interviewed her and she fondly recalled performing at the Honolulu International Center in the 1970s, also mentioning the fact that Obama went to Punahou,which her close friend’s daughter also attended. I asked if she’d ever like to live in Hawaii, and Reddy, who now resides in Clearwater, Florida, said, “Are you kidding?! Of course! It’s my favorite state!”
Read the interview here:
ENCORES! in NY is reviving the 1960s high camp Superman musical and handsome, talented Edward Watts is the new Man of Steel….Read my interview with him here
This annual event is always so rewarding, education and FUN, taking it place as it does in the great city of New Orleans. I never miss it, as being involved in the Festival lends a special flavor to the entire town, as you wander the French Quarter and Garden District, hyper-aware of the great American playwright’s presence, both in the actual locales where he lived and worked, as well as the myriad settings for his plays. Why don’t y’all start the spring early and come on down and join us?
Read about it here
We’ve all loved Lulu ever since seeing and hearing her sing “To Sir with Love”
Pia Zadora may be infamous for winning a 1981 Golden Globe over Elizabeth McGovern, Howard Rollins, Rachel Ward, and Kathleen Turner but she has really earned her place in the sun. (She also owned and lived in Pickfair!)
Read about ‘em here
Manhattan boites brim over with the joyous sounds of some fabulous singers: John Lloyd Young, Tony-winning star of JERSEY BOYS, the legendary DREAMGIRLS’ Jennifer Holliday, etc etc
Read about ‘em here