One of the most enduring compositions from the collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin is "The
Man I Love," a trunk song that was subsequently revised and scrubbed from several musical productions. A definitive song of harbored longings, introduced by Fred's lovely sister Adele Astaire and popularized by Helen Morgan in the twenties, it subsequently nestled in a self-titled forties Warner Bros. melodrama with Ida Lupino as a smoky saloon singer.
In her return to the historic Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, Maude Maggart preserves the legacy of the cabaret torch singer. Sultry and seductive, Maggart probes the depths of a lyric with dramatic insight. She puts a little proscenium arch around a song to tell a story and turn it into a telling theatrical experience. Her voice has a warm silky edge and her ballad phrasing is uniquely fresh and original.
She casts a distinctive spell and the listener is totally transfixed.
Another Gershwin classic is "Love is Here To Stay," historically credited as George's last composition, completed by brother Ira for the film Goldwyn Follies. With a casual dismissal of "the radio and the telephone, and the movies that we know" as mere passing fancies, Ms. Maggart illustrates the power of lasting love with heart pounding fervency.
With a whimsical wink in her eye, the singer takes a more cautious appraisal of romance with a sprightly Rodgers and Hart ditty, "A Little Bird Told Me So." But the Maggart repertoire isn't always locked into the distant past. There is a plaintive gathering of "what the eye arranges" with Stephen Sondheim's 'Beautiful," and Dolly Parton's appropriately timed homespun nod for Mother's Day, "Coat of Many Colors."
Painting dreams with "Be a Child," the sweetly reflective celebration of youth by Alec Wilder and Loonis McGloghan, Maggart follows life's path to old age with a nod to her ninety-eight year old grandmother, a real life veteran of George White's Scandals. The song is Maury Yeston's "My Grandmother's Love Letters." Just try to hold back the tears.
At age thirty-four Maude Maggart, a prodigy of Andrea Marcovicci, is the apparent heir to the great legacies of cabaret royalty, Mabel Mercer, Julie Wilson and Barbara Cook. With her long auburn locks dancing upon the shoulder of a velvety black gown, Maggart has mastered the art of torchy grandeur.
For a playful postscript and a reason to raise one's glass, Maggart offers a "jug of mountain rye" with Irving Berlin's "Moonshine Lullaby." The Maggart program is comfortably supported by John Boswell at the piano and the warming cello strains of Yair Evnine. The melodies linger on through May 23.