Indefatigable cabaret singer Marilyn Maye, who has been singing professionally since World War II, will help Jazz at Lincoln Center celebrate its 30th anniversary season with four concerts October 27 and 28 at the Appel Room in New York City.
Maye, who will celebrate her 90th birthday April 10, 2018, has had an extensive nightclub career, but attained a national profile after she was introduced on The Tonight Show by then-host Steve Allen. She has subsequently made a record 76 appearances on the talk show, through the tenures of various hosts.
As for her Appel Room gig, she said, “I’m putting together material that’s been the most-requested through my many appearances in New York City. I’ll sing ‘A Most Unusual Day’ and ‘I’m Still Here’ and a Johnny Mercer medley. I’ll definitely include ‘Guess Who I Saw Today.’ That one is what I call a ‘payoff song.‘ It has a payoff line at the very end. I’ve done that song a lot and most people know what’s coming, but they still seem to get caught up in the drama of it. I’ll be doing a lot of swingin’ stuff too!”
Though she has not appeared on Broadway, she has appeared in regional productions of musicals including Mame, Hello, Dolly!, and Can-Can. Most of her career has been spent in cabarets and concert halls, where she has performed over the years with the likes of Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Michael Feinstein.
For any performer, let alone one who is 89, it sometimes gets exhausting. “People tell me, ‘You have the best time, don’t you?’ They have no idea the energy it takes. I travel all over the country, and the constant packing and unpacking is no fun.”
That’s one of the reasons she’s glad to be back in New York. “New York audiences are so hip and so aware and they know exactly what you’re doing. I was away from New York for 16 years. I never stopped working, just not in New York. But I came back, and it’s been very steady since then.”
How does she hold up? “I’m lucky that I have good health, and I push. I tell people you’ve got to keep moving. I’ve done this all my life. I’ve always made my living working to people not for them. I have a passion for it, and it’s a great thing when you love what you do.”
After the October 27–28 Jazz at Lincoln Center/Appel Room gig, Maye will pack that suitcase again, headed for stages in Kansas City, Missouri; Palm Springs, California; and Glenside, Pennsylania. She’s booked out through February 15–18, 2018, when she is scheduled to return to New York to play Dizzy’s Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Tickets for her 7 and 9:30 PM concerts at the Appel Room cost $55.50–$90.50 and can be ordered here.