Marilyn Maye
(© Matthew Peake)
Marilyn Maye
(© Matthew Peake)
Rare is the new nightclub act that gloriously harks back to the shimmering nights of a bygone era, but Marilyn Maye's new show, In Love Again, at Feinstein's at Loews Regency, gives one a visceral -- not to mention musical -- sense of what it must have been like to see a top-flight entertainer put on a show at a club like the Copa or The Persian Room.

At the age of 81, Maye continues to be in her prime, putting on a generous 90-minute act with effortless ease that not only shows off her still impressive musical chops, but also shows off her untouchable gift at entertaining. Backed by a sassy three-piece band led by Tedd Firth at the piano, with Tom Hubbard on bass and Jim Eklof on drums, Maye puts on a show that has enough energy in it to light up the entire East Side of Manhattan.

The wonder of her new show is the extraordinary versatility she displays. Her patter is sharp and often hilarious, her vocals are impeccable, but perhaps most impressive is her interpretive skills, which have never been so richly displayed. Having seen most of Maye's shows since she returned to New York in 2005, we have never witnessed the haunting, introspective qualities that she so beautifully renders in Firth's emotionally complex arrangement of Lionel Richie's "Hello."

Her strongest suit is the story song, such as Murray Grand's "Guess Who I Saw Today," which also anchors this show. But what makes the act so special is that, throughout the evening, she cleverly makes many of the songs about her relationship with the audience who adores her. Therefore, when she sings Stephen Sondheim's "Old Friends," she makes it about all of us in the room; the same sentiment applies to "I Love Being Here With You," and when she closes her act with "That's What Friends Are For," it's the warmest of thank yous to the folks in the dark.

Most of all, it's the absolute honesty with which Maye performs these songs -- along with the brassy voice and brassier personality -- that sells these numbers like gangbusters.