She Will Rock You…Maggy Simon Sings! By Sandra Castillo
The building, with the imposing steel-and-glass facade, is home to the popular venue regaled for fine dining and entertainment, its location incorporated on an unassuming stretch of the world-famous Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Frequented by discerning patrons who mix and mingle while feasting on filet mignon, wild mushroom ravioli and any number of sparkling wines offered from their extensive drink selection, the Catalina Jazz Club has showcased the talents of such musical legends as Poncho Sanchez, Lee Ritenhour, Stanley Jordan, Freda Payne, Jack Jones and “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter. With its Old World charm and eclectic fusion of music and palatable menu choices, it really should come as no surprise the upscale locale vaunts itself as “Nothing But The Best In Jazz,” which is the perfect introduction for the exclusive centerpiece of this article/interview…Miss Maggy Simon.
A musical purveyor of the Great American Storybook, Simon specializes in songs and ballads from yesteryear, when Henry Mancini, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter classics were the standard and not the exception. With her eloquently assigned “two-and-a-half octave range” and spectacular, glittery attire, the chanteuse exudes a certain je ne sais quoi that immediately harkens back to an era venerated for high class worn as accoutrement and musical entertainment revered for its lush, orchestral arrangements.
Now, with the release of Yesterday Once More, Simon delivers her own stylized renditions of the songs first made famous by these American luminaries. The singer champions the legacies of her musical forebearers to engage fans with a treasure trove of gems, including “Day In Day Out,” “Le Jazz Hot,” “Jack’s Medley: The Look of Love/Can’t Take My Eyes Off You/Goin’ Out of My Head” and the title song from her album, “Yesterday Once More.”
Born in Los Angeles, California but now residing in Beverly Hills, Simon has been surrounded by the expressive language of music all her life. However, it must be noted that before her ascent in the industry, she had launched and commandeered a very successful career in business management.
RG Magazine recently spoke with Simon to find out more about her music and the moment she stepped into the white-hot spotlight as a performer. This is what she shared with the publication.
When did you first discover you loved to sing?
From the time I was a baby. My mother sang to me, and I sang back to her. Little nursery rhymes and baby songs.
What exactly did it feel like when you began singing and realized it was your true calling in life?
I always knew because I would pick up every new song on the radio, learn to sing it and make each song my own. It was an organic and natural process for me.
Do any of your family members sing or show a propensity for singing?
My mother was a classically trained, lyric soprano. She really started my interest in music and singing.
What were you doing, occupation-wise, prior to singing?
I worked at Universal Studios after college, in feature film production. Learning about motion picture making was a natural desire for me as a possible outlet for singing. After ten years at Universal, I realized I did not want to be an actress who sang, rather I wanted to be a singer who could act. The singing has been a constant in my life, even as the acting fell away.
Who or what has inspired you the most in your career?
My wonderful husband, Jack Simon, who produced seven of my most recent shows at the Catalina Jazz Club and who also produced my album-Yesterday Once More-at Capitol Records.
When and where did you first step into the white-hot spotlight to perform your songs?
The legendary Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, California. I have done eight shows there.
For the record (and this interview), who are some of your musical influences?
Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Edye Gorme. Most of my fans say I sound like Edye.
Apart from Yesterday Once More, have you ever released other albums?
This is my only album as I have been performing only five years after a breakout performance in 2005. My late husband, who produced that show, passed away in 2007 after a huge fight with cancer in 2006. I didn’t perform again until 2013, after I remarried and got my life back together. This album was recorded “live” at Capitol Records Studio in two 8-hour back-to-back days. I had to do each number three times, so we could select the best one for me and the band. I recorded 16 numbers-eight each day-and only 14 made the cut.
Looking back on your career, are there certain moments that specifically stand out for you?
There are so many of these moments, but my favorite one was in my last show at the Catalina Jazz Club. The room was packed (240+ people), and I was performing my special Valentine’s Day Show, “From The Heart,” back by popular demand. So, after a very tiring sound check, I went to the green room to rest and get dressed while dinner was being served. My time came, I was given my wireless mic and walked out on the floor where I began this show. I started singing, and, all of a sudden, the sound went out. The people near me shouted, “We can’t hear you! Stop!” Of course, I stopped, but the band played on as they always do. I walked to the edge of the stage, caught the eye of my Musical Director, and he immediately stopped the band. I told him about the lack of sound. By that time, the Sound Engineer ran up, and I told him. He ran back to get another mic, and I walked around the floor greeting the audience, chatting with them, and so on. Three minutes later, I was given the go-ahead. I asked the audience, “Should I start over from the top?” They all shouted, “YES!” So, I began again, holding crossed fingers in plain view while I sang. The audience loved it, and they were totally with me. As I climbed the stairs onstage, they were applauding, and I finished the first number to deafening applause. Then, as I began to talk to them, the sound went out again! Now, six members of the band hit the floor and began crawling around onstage to check all the wire connections. Well, the audience loved this, kept laughing with me and toasted me with their drinks. Suddenly, the Sound Engineer ran up to the stage and handed me another mic. The audience cheered, and I welcomed them and began the second number after doing a Hail Mary pass. They loved it, the mic worked, and I had the best show with the best audience I ever had.
I received a standing ovation and did my encore number to another standing O. What a night! My regulars told me after the show that I had just lived through every singer’s nightmare. The audience was wonderful and supportive throughout. We had a magical connection together.
Your official website, Maggy Simon Sings, states you made your “theatrical stage debut with a walk-on part in the L.A. production of the hit musical “We Will Rock You.” How did that grand opportunity come about for you?
My husband and I are big supporters of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. We are members of the Artistic Directors Circle with the purpose of sponsoring plays for the Ahmanson Theatre. Most members of Center Theatre Group are big fans of my music and attend all my shows. So, as a “Thank You” for our support, a walk-on part was created for me. I sang and danced with the cast in the number, “We Are The Champions.” It was wonderful, and most of our friends were in the audience to support me. What a thrill that was. I love the stage!
You also graced the spotlight at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A. last year in the production of “Jersey Boys.” What was it personally like for you to showcase your theatrical flash-and-elan in one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals?
In this production, I had two walk-ons-in the First Act and in the Second Act with costume changes. It was thrilling to be part of this production, because I just love all the music, and it is one of my favorite productions of all time.
When you are not performing, what constitutes a day in the life of Maggy Simon?
I am very busy with volunteer work for the Center Theatre Group, the Library Council of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and the Blue Ribbon of the Music Center in Los Angeles. I am always looking for new material, and when preparing for a live show of my own, I work five days a week, eight hours a day, getting my performance ready as well as the other elements of the production. I always use new material, so I learn scores, practice choreography and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until the show is perfect. The real fun for me, after all that work is done, is getting my sparkly dresses organized. I change costumes between Act 1 and Act 2 during the intermission, so the audience doesn’t get bored looking at the same dress all evening. My shows are all upbeat and lively, so each number is choreographed (I have a strong dance background). It’s very exciting and time-consuming to mount a new show, so as I said earlier, I am taking a rest from performing this year, as I gather new material for the next one.
What does music bring to the banquet table in your life?
Music is in my DNA and comprises my very soul. Music has gotten me through the most difficult times of my life and has literally saved my life. I can’t imagine my life without music and the stage.
For more information on the dynamic Maggy Simon, please visit www.maggysimonsings.com