It would be too glib just to sum up Jeremy Jordan as pop hot and Marilyn Maye as jazz cool. Both these terrifically talented and engaging singers can either belt or croon at will. But there is an astonishing difference between their separate cabaret shows, both filmed within a few days of one another on the stage of Feinstein’s/54 Below, and both streaming on the club’s website in May. And it’s not just that Jordan won’t be Maye’s age until the year 2078.
Here is a quintessential moment near the end of “Jeremy Jordan: Carry On,” the 80-minute video streaming from May 6 to May 27:
“There was a time I told myself I was never going to do these kinds of shows….these super personal concerts. ..I didn’t want to be known; I wanted to remain mysterious. But a few years ago I ran out of money, so I caved.”
Here is a quintessential moment from “Marilyn Maye: Broadway The Maye Way,” a 70-minute video streaming from May 8 to May 29:
“When I go shopping these days, I always go up to the cashier with my mask on, and I always say’ I’m smiling. I want you to know I’m smiling.’” Then she launches into a half dozen songs about smiling (such as “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin and “Your Smiling Face” by James Taylor)
In “Carry On,” Jordan dips into a sentimental bag of tricks – actually, a suitcase, in which he has packed items, each of which spurs memories of his childhood, which he then pretends to be recounting to his two-year-old daughter Clara (who, mercifully, is not actually in the club. The place is empty save for the singer and a half dozen musicians and backup vocalists.) He explains to us that, since he has become a father, his attitude towards his past has changed; he wants to bring up these memories in order to purge them.
At one point, he takes out a hand sanitizer, which represents his first girlfriend, as a freshman in high school, because they were afraid to touch one another. After spending several months working up to holding hands, they decide mutually they’ve reached their peak, and will now just be friends. He takes out a scarf; this represents his first heartbreak. The song he sings here, in-between his humorously self-deprecating accounts, is “The Middle” a rocking tune by James Adkins, Thomas D. Linton, Richard Burch, and Zachary Lind, whose lyrics almost fit, albeit requiring a gender adjustment (“It just takes some time /Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride/ Everything, everything will be just fine/ Everything, everything will be alright, alright.”)
This connection between object, song and story is at its most effective when he takes out a cassette tape, explains that his stepmother loved the singer Allison Kraus, and he sings “When You Say Nothing At All” (“There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me/The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me wherever I fall”) while he explains that his stepmother died in a car crash when Jordan was 12 — a moment that is almost unbearably poignant.
Jordan’s setlist includes two songs for which he is best known — “Santa Fe,” which he sang in his Tony-nominated role as Jack Kelly in “Newsies The Musical,” and “Broadway, Here I Come!” the Joe Iconis tune Jordan sang as the songwriter character in the TV series “Smash.” I remember watching him on that series and thinking “Broadway’s just lost another leading man.” But he hasn’t abandoned the theater, appearing as recently as 2019 in “Waitress” and “American Son.” What he has done, deliberately or not, is attempt an escape from the inevitability of leading man roles, given his golden voice, confident attitude, chiseled good looks. That, anyway, is what one can conclude from his willingness to appear less than confident in this show. He talks about some ugly childhood memories — his drug addicted stepfather’s abusive behavior, and Jordan’s guilt at his unwillingness as a teenager to protect his mother — and he second-guesses himself as the show unfolds, arguing at one point with his musical director Benjamin Rauhala about whether he should be opening up at all. “It’s like opening up a wound. And you can’t close it.” (To which Rauhala replies: “Saying these things takes away their power.”) This seems almost too raw and vulnerable to feel real. This show launched live in February, before the pandemic shut it down. Was he expressing these moments of self-doubt every night?
There are several intriguing consequences. One is that the show retains a sense of informality and spontaneity that is not usual for a pre-recorded video. Another is that, for me at least, there’s more an emphasis on Jordan’s stories — and his life — than the songs he sings. Two of the songs are his own compositions — the first, the title song, a fine, bluesy country number, and the last, a gentle song he wrote for Clara.
Written and Directed by Jeremy Jordan
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Benjamin Rauhala
Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf – Cello, Shannon Ford – Percussion, Alan Stevens Hewitt – Electric Bass, David Cinquegrana – Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Ginna Le Vine – Background Vocals, Josh Tolle – Background Vocals
1. “Carry On” – Words and music by Jeremy Jordan
2. “Wake Me Up” – Made famous by Avicii, words and music by Tim Bergling, Aloe Blacc, and Michael Einziger.
3. “Broadway, Here I Come!” – From Smash, words and music by Joe Iconis.
4. “When You Say Nothing At All” – Made famous by Allison Krauss, words and music by Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet.
5. “The Middle” – Made famous by The Middle, words and music by James Adkins, Thomas D. Linton, Richard Burch, and Zachary Lind.
6. “Santa Fe” – From Newsies, words and music by Jack Feldman and Alan Menken.
7. “Princess Jeremy Medley” – Contains excerpts from:
– “Part of Your World” – From The Little Mermaid, words and music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken – “How Far I’ll Go” – From Moana, words and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda
– “When Will My Life Begin” – From Tangled, words and music by Alan Menken & Glenn Slater
– “Reflection” – From Mulan, words and music by Matthew Wilder & David Zippel
– “Let It Go” – From Frozen, words and music by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Bobby Lopez
– “Into the Unknown” – From Frozen II, words and music by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Bobby Lopez
8. “Lullaby” – Words and music by Billy Joel.
9. “Finishing the Show Medley” – Contains excerpts from:
– “Moving Too Fast” – From The Last Five Years, words and music by Jason Robert Brown
– “Let Me Make You Proud” – From Tangled: The Series, words and music by Alan Menken & Glenn Slater
– “From Now On” – From The Greatest Showman, words and music by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
– “Raise A Little Hell” – From Bonnie and Clyde, words and music by Frank Wildhorn & Jack Black
– “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” – Made famous by Céline Dion, words and music by Jim Steinman
– “Santa Fe” – From Newsies, words and music by Jack Feldman & Alan Menken
10. “Flesh and Bone” – Words and music by Jeremy Jordan
Jeremy Jordan: Carry On premieres online Thursday, May 6 at 8 PM ET & continues On Demand May 7 to May 27. Tickets are $35, with VIP tickets at $50, and can be purchased at www.54Below.com/Jeremy.
In Marilyn Maye’s concert, she focuses on the songs themselves, rather than herself. She does offer a few words here and there that imply less than a happy time for her (“I watched old movies this past year and ate gummy bears”) but what few anecdotes she tells are mostly about the songs, or about when she first sang them. There is relatively little of that, just enough to win us over to her personality, as she dispatches two dozen Broadway songs with crystalline voice and sophisticated phrasing. This is a polished performance of a woman who first sang professionally in 1942! Her renditions of Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, and Harold Arlen, of Kander and Ebb and Lerner and Lowe, are so swoon-worthy that it’s a shock that she’s never performed on Broadway itself (just, as she puts it, “in some very prestigious theaters around the country.”) Broadway will soon reopen; she’s only 93; there’s still time.
Broadway, The Maye Way
Starring Marilyn Maye Music Direction by Tedd Firth
Tedd Firth – Piano, Thomas Hubbard – Bass, Mark McLean – Percussion
Filmed April 4, 2021 at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Premieres online Saturday, May 8, 2021.
- THE SONG IS YOU Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II
- OLD FRIENDS Sondheim
- I LOVE BEING HERE WITH YOU Peggy Lee and Bill Schluger
- ANY PLACE I HANG MY HAT IS HOME Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen
- CABARET John Kander and Fred Ebb
- STEP TO THE REAR Elmer Bernstein and Carolyn Leigh
- HELLO, DOLLY! Jerry Herman
- RIBBONS DOWN MY BACK Jerry Herman
- ELEGANCE Jerry Herman
- I’VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO HIS FACE Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
- WOULDN’T IT BE LOVERLY Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
- ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
- MAME Jerry Herman
- IF HE WALKED INTO MY LIFE Jerry Herman
- WHEN YOU’RE SMILING Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin and Larry Shay
- PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES Felix Powell and George H Powel
- SMILE John Turner, Geoffrey Parsons and Charlie Chaplin
- YOUR SMILING FACE James Taylor
- I LOVE TO SEE YOU SMILE Randall Newman
- PUT ON A HAPPY FACE Lee Adams and Charles Strouse
- FIFTY PERCENT Marilyn Bergman, Alan Bergman and Billy Goldenberg
- GOLDEN RAINBOW Walter Marks
- I’M STILL HERE Sondheim
- IT’S TODAY Jerry Herman
Broadway, The Maye Way premieres online Sat., May 8 at 7 PM ET & continues On Demand May 9 to May 29. Tickets are $35, with VIP tickets at $50, and can be purchased at www.54Below.com/marilyn.