Marilyn Maye has nothing on her mind but spreading joy. For a swinging broad of 84 (and I mean that in the best way), she also sings up a storm, but you already knew that. The joy is contagious, and she spreads it around like honey on toast. She calls her current show at Feinstein’s “The Happiest Sound in Town”—she’s not kidding.
Famous for torch songs and ballads, she’s concentrating for a change on buoyant, upbeat tunes of heartening fine-and-dandy cheer viewed through rose-colored glasses. Accompanied by Billy Stritch, who cradles her in varying keyboard tempos with his comrades, Tom Hubbard on bass and Jim Eklof on drums, Ms. Maye is in hearty, jubilant form, ushering in spring with “April Showers,” “Are You Having Any Fun?”, “Look For the Silver Lining” and a hearty triptych of “Get Happy,” “I Want to Be Happy” and “Sometimes I’m Happy.” Of course spring can be cold and lonely, too, and she polishes off the Tommy Wolf-Fran Landesman classic “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” with a warmth that belies its cruel chill. It wouldn’t be an evening with Marilyn Maye without the songs her cult following requests—nay, demands. “Too Late Now,” “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” and “Here’s That Rainy Day” are prime examples of her ageless, timeless artistry. She’s sung the blues before. This time the emphasis is on jolting you with jubilation. For the kids, she throws in “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” For the grownups, her rendition of mentor Steve Allen’s obscure “When I’m In Love” is nothing short of sublime. And for happy, contemporary writing, there is a wonderful, witty song by the talented team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman from their underrated Broadway musical Catch Me if You Can that proves she’s been paying attention. It’s called “Butter Outta Cream” and it starts like this:
Two little mice of great reknown
Fell in some milk and one proceeded to drown
The other one’s still the toast of the town
‘Cause he made butter outta cream.
The song is merely marvelous, like Marilyn Maye. Get over to Feintein’s and see what the fuss is all about.