Steven Sondheim's Mme. Armfeldt (Mere), the aged courtesan who retired with a tiny Titian amongst other loot, asked many intriguing questions in her Little Night Music's solo, Liaisons, which contains musing on sexual relations that actually apply even more to life and art.
Where is style?
Where is skill?
Where is forethought?
Where's discretion of the heart?
Where's passion in the art?
The good news is that all of the above are alive and thriving in Maude Maggart's current Cabaret show at Café Carlyle in Manhattan as well as anywhere else she may be singing her generous heart out.
Maude Maggart has been hailed by both of New York's top music mavens. The New York Times Stephen Holden called her "singular and arresting, with a rapid vibrato that evokes butterfly wings beating against the sky," and the Wall Street Journal's Will Friedwald wrote that "singing the subtext as much as the notes or the lyrics, she creates a kind of Jukebox musical of the gods."
Maude's heritage overflows with entertainment and musical DNA. Her scandalous grandmother -- whose photographs accompany Maude on Maude's accompanist's grand piano -- appropriately sang and high-kicked in the George White Scandals. Her grandfather toured as a vocalist with the Harry James big band. Maude and her sister, singer/songwriter Fiona Apple, might well have actually been conceived on Broadway. Their parents, Brandon Maggart and Diane McAfee, met as original cast members in the Tony award-winning musical Applause based on Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Oscar-Winning masterpiece, All About Eve. Diane, cast as the #$%^&@ scene-and-husband-stealing Eve, was replaced during show previews by Penny Fuller but still proved that talent plus persistence always triumphs. Diane held on to her man and eventually replaced leading lady Lauren Bacall in the musical's national touring company.
Club Carlyle, an elegant heritage room, provides Maude with a perfect setting. Maude dresses simply and handsomely. Her quiet presentation and modest demeanor focus on feeling and communicating the lyrics of the many wonderful songs in her show. She's musically modest too. Her simple, pure, understated singing allows the music that flows from her lips to sell itself. Some songs like A Foggy Day are eternal classics; others like Lost in Wonderland with lyrics by one of her mentors Marshall Barer are less renowned, but Maude treats every song with equal intelligence and respect. She opens her set with three oldies that date back to the era of black and white films, including a lively I May be Wrong But I Think You're Wonderful, from her Grandmother's repertoire, which supplies an up-tempo lift to a ballad-heavy show. John Boswell's quietly romantic and lush arrangements make you feel that every day is Valentine's Day .
Maude's variety is amazing. She runs the gamut from classic to cutting edge. The highlight of the show was her exquisite rendition of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's equally exquisite Pure Imagination, which swathes your ears with musical gossamer. Tunes by Kalmar and Ruby, The Gershwins, Jobin, Cole Porter, Berlin, Rogers and Hart and Harburg and Arlen alternate with lesser known tunes by Alec Wilder and Rado and Ragni.
Talk about good old days, the Café Carlyle habitués are chic, smart, tasteful, refined -- stylish women dressed in furs with L'Oreal colored tresses. The room is handsome and comfortable, ringed with black and tan square patterned comfortable upholstered banquettes. Strangers embrace each other. Conversations are subdued but worth overhearing. Food and drinks are served by a devoted staff. And naturally, the spirit of Bobby Short looks down approvingly from wherever he's tickling the ivories now.
Maude Maggart appears at Café Carlyle until March 1st, with shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:45 and 10:45 pm. Her new CD "Speaking of Dreams" is being released on April 8th
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