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by Michael Portantiere

Marilyn Maye Hooks Up With Michael Feinstein

  • Marilyn-edit.jpgOne might say that Marilyn Maye is having a glorious renaissance, except that there really haven't been any dark ages in this lady's career. Famous as one of Johnny Carson's all-time favorite performers -- she holds the record among singers for appearances on The Tonight Show, at a whopping 76 -- Marilyn has in recent years been working constantly in cabarets, theaters, and concert halls all over the country, including two of New York's top venues, the Metropolitan Room and Feinstein's at Loews Regency.

    In early August, I was pleased to be present for one of Marilyn's two sold-out performances in Provincetown. And now, the day after Labor Day, Marilyn and Michael Feinstein are beginning a three-week run of their first-ever duo show at MF's eponymous club. Here's the scoop on that...


    BROADWAYSTARS: You've played Feinstein's several times as a solo act, but never on the bill with Michael.

    MARILYN MAYE: I've never done a double before, with anyone. I mean, if you want to count sex, yes -- but not singing!

    STARS: How did this come about?

    MM: Michael just called and invited me. He's been very loyal about coming to see my shows, even before I started working at Feinstein's. We originally met in 2006, I think. He lived with his parents in Dayton, Ohio when he was a little boy, and it turns out his parents would come to see me at Sutt Miller's, a wonderful nightclub with a big band. I've also worked with Michael in a couple of his concerts at Zankel Hall. We've become friends, and I really admire his incredible talent and knowledge of music.

    STARS: According to the Feinstein's blurb for your show, the program will include "pop standards, boogie woogie classics, and audience favorites." I'm particularly curious about the "boogie woogie classics."

    MM: Well, Michael said he wanted to do something along those lines, so I told him that years ago I did a symphony concert with Peter Nero that had a lot of '40s material. Peter Matz wrote an arrangement of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" for me, and the arrangement I'll be doing at Feinstein's was taken from that symphony chart. Michael's going to do some swing material from his own repertoire; I wrote some lyrics that I'm going to sing along to his version of "I Love a Piano."

    STARS: What kind of a band will you have?

    MM: We've got Tedd Firth on piano, Albie Berk on drums, Tom Hubbard on bass, Glenn Drewes on trumpet, and Ken Peplowski on sax. We're booked for three weeks, but on the third Tuesday, I have to go back to Kansas City to play a date at the performing arts center there. I'm going to be honored by the Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City as the Kansas Citizen of the Year.

    STARS: Congratulations. And a three-week stint at Feinstein's is terrific. It was reported recently that the club is going to be closing or moving at the end of the year; I don't know how much you know and/or can say about that.

    MM: Well, I don't know a lot and I can't say much, but I think Michael is very excited about other places that he's had offers from.

    STARS: And now the news has come that Michael will be taking over as conductor of the Pasadena Pops, in Marvin Hamlisch's stead.

    MM: Yes. That's quite an honor.

    STARS: So, you've had a great summer?

    MM: Yes! Wasn't P-Town fun?

    STARS: Great fun. You've already developed such a strong following there, even though this was only your second summer performing in town. Both of your shows at the Art House were packed.

    MM: I left right after that to work at a summer resort in northern Iowa. This was my 56th year performing there. Four generations; people bring their kids, and the kids bring their kids. It's amazing. Then I had two engagements in Kansas City. And the week before P-Town, I did a concert at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT.

    STARS: Any plans for a new recording?

    MM: I have two CDs that I haven't finished. All that has to be done is a little bit of completing, and the editing. And I'd like to do a live CD.

    STARS: Great. Thanks for talking. I'm really jazzed about your show at Feinstein's.

    MM: Michael is wonderful to work with. He's a very intelligent boy. I call him a boy because I'm old enough to be his mother, if not his grandmother!

    Published on Sunday, September 2, 2012

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

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