Marin Mazzie & Jason Danieley: Broadway & Beyond

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Marin Mazzie & Jason Danieley

Broadway & Beyond
Live at Feinstein’s/54 Below

(Broadway Records)

July 24, 2020

By Jerry Osterberg

No one would suggest that Euripides conceived a love story when he wrote The Trojan Women in 415 BCE. Nevertheless, 2,000 or so years later, Charles L. Mee, Jr. created an adaptation, which he called The Trojan Women: A Love Story. In-spite-of the title, the revised edition was not much of a love story either. It opened far off-Broadway at the long-dormant East River Park Amphitheater in 1996. While retaining the original story line depicting captive widows at the end of the Trojan War, the newest production had the American Songbook to work with.

The Greek chorus sang along with Billie Holiday and Pink Floyd, and there were solos of standards such as “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “They All Laughed.” Ben Brantley of The New York Times called the production “an epic war resolved with a Gershwin ditty.” Among others, the cast included Marin Mazzie, fresh from her Tony-nominated appearance in Passion, and Jason Danieley, newly arrived from Floyd Collins. For Mazzie and Danieley, who had never performed together, it was a star-crossed moment. The couple wed and remained married for over 20 years until Mazzie’s untimely death on September 13, 2018 at the age of 57.

On the evening of June 1, 2017, at the end of a brief run at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley sang together for the last time, their performance recorded live. The recording is an incredible document of their love story and careers, an inspired compilation of songs of special significance for them, and a résumé of their musical-theater experience over two decades.

The album opens with “All the Way,” delivered as a bright and joyful duet, in a quick samba arrangement by Tedd Firth, who also arranged a three-song medley, all hailing from The Trojan Women: A Love Story. Mazzie’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” came as touching, warm, and expressive. “The Glory of Love,” was performed by Danieley in a bouncy, devil-may-care attitude, the words underscored by a rich vibrato.

“Hello, Young Lovers,” a definitive moment in Rodgers & Hammerstein II’s The King and I, is beautifully staged by Mazzie with passion and sweet sadness as a woman at peace with herself whose own memories of love engender sincere empathy for those whose feelings are just beginning to burst forth. An earlier show tune by Rodgers & Hammerstein, “Younger Than Springtime,” paired with “Carefully Taught,” both from South Pacific, is sung by Danieley with breathless awe, his character a prime example of who Mazzie’s Anna may have had in mind. Danieley’s clear and precise diction is perfect for the quick passage into “Carefully Taught,” with a quite different subject (racial prejudice) under close examination.

Most of the album’s arrangements are by the music director, Joseph Thalken, including a luxurious treatment of Cole Porter’s “So In Love” (Kiss Me, Kate) by Mazzie, whose character finds herself in a “delirious” state of perfect bliss. Besides earning Tony, Olivier, and Drama Desk nominations for her performance on Broadway, she won the Outer Critics Award. Following the Broadway run, Mazzie took the play to the West End.

Danieley performed a lovely, “You Walk with Me” (David Yazbek), which he had introduced on Broadway in The Full Monty, a successful adaptation of the film. It is a tender, poignant serenade with the sensibility of an Irish folk ballad. The line that captures the heart of the song is “Never alone for you walk with me.” Earning 12 Tony nominations, the show moved to the West End with Danieley.

Beginning a medley of Sondheim songs arranged by David Loud, Mazzie opened with “Happiness,” a brilliant song from Passion, in which her starring role performance led to her first Tony nomination. The song becomes a duet, as Mazzie and Danieley convey their characters’ strong bond and a shared euphoria that is more than fleeting. It is a defining moment, as their voices blend to a gorgeous crescendo.

“Good Thing Going” from Merrily We Roll Along is a bittersweet story of a relationship that wilted for lack of trying: “We took a lot for granted.” Too late comes the realization that it could have lasted. Follies provides a good occasion for a duet in “Too Many Mornings,” in which two people appear to have strong memories albeit diverging. Still they arrive at the same place by the song’s end: “Resting in my arms with your head against my head,” and the ultimate epiphany of “I’ve always loved you.”

One of the best known of Sondheim’s theater songs to emerge as a stand-alone standard is “Not a Day Goes By,” which is also from the score of Merrily We Roll Along. Mazzie presents an appropriately dramatic and memorable statement of feeling: “But you’re still part of my life and you won’t go away, so there’s hell to pay.” The final number in the quintet is “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George.” Mazzie and Danieley build to a beautiful harmonic finish: “We will always belong together.”

“You, You, You” comes from The Visit (Kander & Ebb). Danieley’s solo starts as a soft and gracious waltz before moving on to a jazzy, swinging tempo. Building on an arrangement by Charlie Rosen and a book by Terrence McNally, the singer gets to inhabit every aspect of his character’s life, acknowledging that “There’s a specter of you” and “Dreams come true.” An early success of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, Fiorello, produced “When Did I Fall in Love.” It was arranged by William Brohn, and is categorically one of the strongest vehicles on the album for Mazzie. Her lines simply sparkle: “When was the blinding flash?” and “When did it start this change of heart?” and “It doesn’t matter when, or why, or how” as long as I love him now.” Mazzie’s is the perfect voice for this tender love song.

Performing another of David Loud’s arrangement, “I Miss the Music,” Danieley reprises his role in Curtains as a lyricist who misses his former wife and writing partner. The show was written by Kander & Ebb, but Fred Ebb, who wrote the lyrics, died before the production opened. Rupert Holmes, who had written the book, also worked with John Kander to create additional lyrics. At the time of the production, “I Miss the Music,” with words such as “I miss the music, I miss my friend,” “I choose the music I wrote with her,” and “I love the music I wrote with her,” the song had special significance for Kander, whose partner Fred Ebb was gone. For Jason Danieley, who was aware that his wife, Marin Mazzie, was terminally ill during their cabaret show in 2017, the poignancy may have been overwhelming. It was undoubtably his best performance of the evening.

“And the World Goes ’Round” is the title song of a successful off-Broadway revue of the songs from various musicals written by Kander & Ebb. The original cast included Karen Ziemba and Karen Mason. While Mazzie joined a bit after the opening, she ultimately continued in a 10-month national tour. The

essence of the song is that no matter what happens to you, good or bad, “the planet spins and the world goes round.” Mazzie was such a magnificent actress and singer, that a line such as “…dreams get broken in pieces, but that doesn’t matter at all” is its own vignette if not a novel.

The rest of the album is just as good as what comes before.  There are two stirring songs from Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens: “Back to Before” and “Opposite You,” from Ragtime and The Glorious Ones, respectively. Ragtime was the basis of Mazzie’s second Tony nomination.

The final performance of the evening was Gershwin’s “Love Is Here to Stay,” which happened to be the couple’s wedding song. It was a fitting end for a recording that essentially echoes their lives and artistry.

Credit must be given to the team who assembled this stunning creation, including music director Thalken, Pete Donovan on bass, and Rich Rosensweig on drums. For those who have not witnessed the performances that made Mazzie and Danieley stars, it is an opportunity to hear them now or to listen again should you already be familiar with their work. I propose that this live, extraordinary achievement captured here may be their best.

Marin Mazzie appeared in three productions for which Terrence McNally wrote the book. The last of these, Fire & Air, which opened in 2018, represented Mazzie’s last appearance in a play. Ironically, it was McNally’s final creation because he passed away due to complications of the Covid virus in 2020. Having seen their last cabaret performance, McNally was asked to write liner notes for the album. He wrote: “Their joyful love for each other is so palpable in these performances. There is a give and take between them that shows the respect they have for each other as performers. The true soul mates that they are as singing actors and spouses is on every track.”

Jerry Osterberg

After decades in the banking field, singing in a chorale, and writing on just about every subject under the sun, Jerry left finance and decided to devote himself to the American Songbook. Countless workshops in singing and writing later, he began contributing articles to the New York Sheet Music Society and to write reviews and feature stories for Cabaret Scenes. Jerry is now the Contributing Editor for the monthly newsletter of the NYSMS, continues to perform in chorus, and is currently researching a biography of the late American pop singer Jo Stafford.