She came (for the 62nd consecutive summer) and she was magnificent!
Marilyn Maye, a cabaret and Broadway performer, turned 90 years of age in April. She wanted to celebrate her landmark birthday in Okoboji but her usual performance venue (The Inn of Okoboji) was torn down this spring. The staff at the Pearson Lakes Art Center asked her to do her annual gig in their Lauridsen Performing Arts Theatre and she agreed. Two shows on Aug. 14 and 15 were sold out weeks in advance.
As the audience was being seated, a large screen on stage showed a CBS Sunday Morning story about Maye, which aired this spring. Part of it was filmed at her show last summer in The Inn. To start the show, a video was played of several of her friends wishing her a happy birthday. Among the many well-wishers were Broadway costume designer Bob Mackie, Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Tyne Daly, David Hyde Pierce and nightclub owner Michael Feinstein.
Maye walked on stage and her friends and fans were treated to an evening to remember.
Maye began the show singing a cappella. We immediately knew her 90-year-old voice was just as strong and pure as ever. A medley of songs about rainbows got us all in an upward mindset. They were well-sung and her backup musicians were outstanding. Sharing the stage with Maye were Kansas City's Rod Fleeman, Omaha's Andy Hall, Eric Halverson on drums and Tedd Firth. Firth is at the keyboards and is her right arm, keeping occasional memory lags updated and is also a fabulous pianist.
We all chuckled when she sang to us a cute song about "I'm 90 at last!" She performed it with her usual gusto.
I enjoyed her Duke Ellington medley enormously. She also sang "Come Rain or Come Shine" with so much feeling. She still has the power to belt out a song.
In honor of the revival of the famous Broadway musical "My Fair Lady," Maye sang a medley of those songs. A rowdy upbeat version of "Get Me To The Church On Time" was really fun.
The audience loved her medley from "Hello Dolly." We also got to sing along on "Mame" with the star. She told us she loved playing Mame because of all the great costumes she got to wear.
Maye was proud of her job as Music Director for the University of Okoboji and sang the U of O theme song while we all clapped to the beat. She also treated us to a little ditty she composed about getting to a gig she was to perform in Estherville many years ago when the snow was so very high you couldn't see past the drifts. She kept asking us, "Who is the Esther in Estherville?" There were lots of whistles and applause when the ditty was over.
New York City and Maye have a long-time loving relationship. She is heading there now to do a week-long show at Feinstein's/54 Below. Her rendition of "New York State of Mind" had a great beat and she reiterated that "New York is a wonderful town."
The cabaret singer can still, after completing eight full decades of life, kick her legs above her waist like in the "old days." Most of us cannot say that and we are decades younger.
The show came to a reluctant end when she treated us to her signature song "It's Today." Maye received a four-minute long standing ovation before everyone adjourned to Pomerantz Hall for a birthday party.
Negotiations are underway for Marilyn Maye to return to PLAC next summer and her fans are waiting for the final word so they can buy their tickets. Happy birthday Marilyn!