Legend Marilyn Maye

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Legend Marilyn Maye

In anticipation of Marilyn Maye’s upcoming appearance at Hudson Hall’s Opera House on July 1 and 2, I was asked to write this article/interview.

This legend known as Marvelous Marilyn Maye, is not your typical performing artist. No, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Maybe it has to do with her outstanding, lengthy career – appearing on the Johnny Carson Show 76 times (more than anyone else) where he dubbed her a “Super Singer,” or the fact that Ella Fitzgerald called her “the greatest white female singer in the world.” She truly is an exquisite interpreter of the lyrics of the American Songbook with her unique jazz stylings and story-telling ability. Watching MM perform is always a masterclass and when you’re in her presence – – it’s always a party!

Luckily, everyone attending the historic Hudson Hall Opera House in Hudson, NY on July 1 and 2 is in for an unforgettable evening. The usual capacity at the Opera House is 300 but with current Covid guidelines, there will only be 100 tickets available for each performance unless Covid rules change prior. Hopefully you’ve gotten yours.

Let me share some tidbits about Ms. Maye. The many times I’ve seen, reviewed and interviewed Marilyn Maye, I’m always awed by the fact that she is perfectly coiffed, her makeup flawless and the zest and love for what she does ever present . . . and she’s only 93! Each time we get to speak, I’m privy to that much more about her life as she reveals new details about herself and her extraordinary career.

When we chatted about the upcoming performances, she was happy to say “ticket sales were great for July 1, so they added July 2 as a second night.” She’s not unfamiliar with Hudson as she did perform several years back in Lee Tannen’s Cabaret Series at Helsinki Hudson. Marilyn, in fact, knows a local resident whom she coaches – – “he’s theatrical and a supporter of the Opera House.” When he saw her in her recent 54 Below virtual show Broadway: The Maye Way he was completely enamored with her Smile Medley . . . “so don’t be surprised with the title of my show “Marilyn Maye presents Smile!” And the really good news is that she’ll be performing with those same incredible musicians – Tedd Firth, musical director and on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and Mark McLean on drums/percussion. It really doesn’t get any better.

Marilyn was thrilled to share that . . .  “Mo Rocca (CBS) came to film and interview me at my recent 5 night gig at the Wick Theater-Cabaret in Florida in April and we talked about what 2020 was turning out to be booking-wise. Well, it was one of my best years, had so many gigs booked but then the pandemic put a lid on that. . . waiting to find out when this interview & show clips will air on CBS and you’ll know as soon as I do.”  She spoke about Mo coming to Lake Okoboji to film her 61st year performing at Pearson Lakes Arts Center and . . . when it finally aired, I got 8 ½ minutes of time and Elton John got 5.”

Marilyn was married three times but especially wanted to speak about her second husband Jimmie DeFore (father of her daughter Kristi Tucker – a singer and vocal coach in Kansas City). “Jimmie and I had a dance studio for 9 years in Kansas City . . . he taught dancing, I taught singing . . . “ The memory was especially poignant as one of the students at that studio was also present and chatted with Marilyn at the premiere airing of the 54 Below Broadway: The Maye Way streaming show, now extended thru June 19.

One of Marilyn’s most important memories is performing at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia (modeled after LaScala in Milan with its lavish interior) with the Peter Nero Symphony . . . she was in good company as only she and Mel Torme (her favorite) performed there twice.

“I’m so busy now that I’m not going back to the past. I need to concentrate on NOW.” “If I wrote a book it would be called ‘Orchids and Onions’ – it’s all good, the music, the loving words from fans when performing – the Orchids! Then I go home and I think about the packing, unpacking, flying, arrangements . . . the Onions! “

Marilyn Maye has that unique ability to always make an audience feel as if she’s singing just to you – it’s very personal – never a 4th Wall  . . . “I sing to them, not for them.” In her many years of performance, she’s gained immense wisdom, the most relevant? “Got to keep moving, you can’t sit down and relax . . . that’s what keeps you doing it.”

When I asked what she wouldn’t want people to know, she responded “I’m addicted to shopping . . . especially to shoes.” (now you know!)

But the most fun had to do with eyelashes. Yes, eyelashes! I recall, not too long ago, being up in the green room at 54 Below after one of Marilyn’s shows and there she was demonstrating to a friend the correct way to put on eyelashes (she wouldn’t dare go to the grocery store without them!).  Here’s the secret: “It’s all in the blowing and singing or humming a full chorus of “Jingle Bells” . . . then you get them dry and perfect . . . you place the liquid adhesive on each lash and put them on but you MUST be singing 4 bars of “Jingle Bells.”

I certainly will try this as I’ve never been able to get lashes to stay on or look good! Let me know how you fair!

Well, between now and her gig at Hudson’s Opera House July 1 and 2, Marilyn Maye will return to regale fans under a tent at Crooner’s in Minneapolis for 5 nights, then come back to New York where she will hold master classes and work with her private clients on upcoming acts and will sing “Jingle Bells” many, many times.

What a bundle of energy and inspiration. You’re in for the treat of a lifetime!


  • Sandi Durell

    Sandi Durell is Publisher/Editor of www.theaterpizzazz.com/ and has been writing, reviewing, producing, having a voice in the theater, cabaret and entertainment communities for over 25+ years. She is a Voting Member of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards; member of the American Theatre Critics Association. Sandi is a producer of Broadway & Hollywood Live! Revues (www.ShaRellProductions.com); has produced numerous Songwriter Events for the American Popular Song Society (APSS – formerly New York Sheet Music Society on which she is a Board member); the benefit CD “Our Heart Sings;” is a producer on the Award winning film “Broadway the Golden Age” (with Rick McKay) and has produced a variety of entertainment events for most of her career. She is a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU – Advisory Board),100+ year old Dutch Treat Club, The Lambs; an occasional theater “angel” and has had a career as a vocalist-performer. Her column can also be found at www.theaterlife.com

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