Broadway power couple Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley have been performing with Maestro Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops for almost 20 years.
Mazzie, a three-time Tony nominee for Passion; Ragtime; and Kiss Me, Kate, recently made her triumphant return to Broadway in The King and I following a year-long battle with ovarian cancer.
Mazzie and Danieley were scheduled to perform together with the Pops last spring, but her health kept her from making the trip and Danieley (The Full Monty, Curtains) ended up performing without her. Now, one year later, she’s back where she belongs.
On June 15 and 16, they join Lockhart and the Pops (alongside Laura Osnes and Justin Hopkins) for The Golden Age of Broadway, a celebration of Broadway’s most cherished show tunes.
Here, Mazzie and Danieley open up about their extensive Broadway careers and the difference a year can make.
What is it about the Boston Pops that keeps you guys coming back?
MM: It’s an amazing orchestra, historic and all of that. Also, it’s interesting because we sort of started singing with them when Keith started, and we developed a great relationship with him and the orchestra over these years. We just love coming up there; we love Boston and the orchestra is so wonderful to sing with.
For this concert, The Golden Age of Broadway, what will you be singing?
JD: We’re doing something from Oklahoma! and I’m singing “Soliloquy” from Carousel, as far as Rodgers and Hammerstein. I’m singing “Trouble” from The Music Man and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from Guys and Dolls.
MM: I’m doing “So in Love” from Kiss Me, Kate, “Hello Young Lovers” from The King and I, “Some People” from Gypsy, and “Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankees.
JD: It’s really a smattering of the greatest songs from Broadway.
Last spring you were scheduled to perform at the Pops, and Marin, you were not able to. I’m so glad that you are able to come back and that you’re performing. You’re so inspiring. What a difference a year makes, right?
MM: Yes, truly. A great difference, that’s for sure. I’m overjoyed—that doesn’t even describe it. I can’t put into words how happy I am that I’m going to be back up there and able to sing this year and that I’m back on Broadway doing a beautiful prod[uction] of The King and I and playing an amazing role. I’m feeling very grateful and blessed.
What was your opening night like? What were you feeling?
MM: We kind of had two: May 3 was our first performance and that just was a great feeling to just be back on stage, you know, and then we set the official opening night for May 19 to give Daniel Dae Kim, my costar, and I a couple weeks to do the show and catch up with everyone else who had been doing it for a year. I had a lot of people from my life there that night, from my mom and my brother and obviously my husband, to friends from childhood to my close friends here in New York City, so it was a really, really special, beautiful, overwhelming evening full of a lot of love and joy. All the people that were there had been very much a part of my journey this past year. It was a big celebration for all of us.
MM: Thank you.
Chicago has been running just a bit longer than The King and I, but what is it like to step into a long-running musical?
MM: For me, with Anna, we got to go back to work with Bartlett Sher, the director. It was wonderful that I got to go in with a King, that we were going in together, so we were really creating our own version of it. We had a whole different take on things because we’re two very different actors, and that’s what we find when you take over. None of the shows that we’ve taken over—Next to Normal, Spamalot—there isn’t anyone asking you to be like anybody. They’re hiring you because they want Marin Mazzie to play Anna, they want Jason Danieley to play Billy Flynn. They want to see what you are in that role, they don’t want you to be somebody else.
JD: Going into Chicago, which has been running for 20 years coming up this fall, it’s kind of an incredible acting exercise because you learn your lines, you learn the music, and you’re plugged into that show. One rehearsal with the whole company, and then boom, you’re jumping onto a running locomotive. It’s fun because you’re playing with people who know the show so well, and over a three-month period, I had six different Roxies. Each person that comes in brings in a completely different characterization to these iconic roles and you just get to play and have fun.
What I realized as I was reading through your credits is that both of your work has been such a part of the fabric of my life. I was holed up in my room as a child listening to Passion; The Full Monty; Ragtime; and Kiss Me, Kate, dreaming of this place called New York. And when I moved there for college, I got to see you in things like Man of La Mancha, Spamalot, and Curtains. Both of you have made such an impression on my life.
MM: Aw, thank you.
JD: That’s very nice of you to say.
Of all your Broadway roles, what has been the most fulfilling?
JD: One of the most fulfilling shows to do was Next to Normal because it was together. That was exciting. Also, it’s a very important musical; not all musicals can be categorized as important. It was really gratifying to work together and also to be in something that moved so many people.
MM: That show, as it continues to be performed all over the world, has given voice to a lot of people who either suffer from bipolar disorder or depression—any mental illnesses—and their families. And I think that’s a thing that was incredibly moving to both of us. And still, how people talk about it when we see them. For me, all the shows I’ve done have their very special things, but I love playing Anna Leonowens [in The King and I] right now. She’s an extraordinary woman of her time, and she’s such a humanist with her desire to educate and to help people. I have great, deep respect for her. It’s always wonderful when you play women that you have deep respect for.
Of the songs that you regularly perform together, which have taken on a new meaning given what you’ve been through this past year?
MM: “Back to Before” from Ragtime, which is a song I sing a lot. I’ve sung it over the years many different times in concerts for many different occasions. It’s one of those songs that’s really a gift and it sort of fits any situation. But last December when we sang in San Francisco was the first time I had sung it post-surgery and post-chemo. I didn’t know if I was in remission or anything, but I had never sung the song about myself. It was the first time I had ever sung it as Marin singing, “We can never go back to before.” And so that took on a new kind of life for me, that day. In that same concert we sang “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George, and that’s another amazing, beautiful lyric and song and has had meaning every time we’ve sung it, but I think it took on a different meaning, at least for me. I think for Jason, too.
JD: Definitely. We found, in that particular concert, since it was post-surgery and chemo, that everything had a completely different take, even songs that we’ve sung a million times, it’s like, “Oh, wow.” Our lives have completely changed over the last year, and those songs that we are identifying with and that are so specific like “Back to Before,” or a song that John Kander wrote for me for Curtains, “I Miss the Music,” took on a strong meaning because it was still very close to the feelings of unknown: Will Marin be in remission? So the whole idea of “I miss the music, I miss my friend,” was still kind of a fresh wound.
It’s amazing how things can evolve in meaning over time.
MM: Oh, yeah.
JD: That’s good writing.
It’s exactly that.
JD: I can probably sing “The Music of the Night” and not have one ounce of feeling one way or the other. It’s not something I identify with. But Sondheim, and Kander and Ebb, and Ahrens and Flaherty are just such good writers that their stuff transcends being in the context of a show.
Marin, how did you keep your voice so strong during the chemo?
MM: Well, I don’t really know. I didn’t sing a lot while I was going through my—I call it—“healing therapy,” my treatment. I went to my voice teacher a couple times and vocalized, and I just think it is part of me, and it stayed with me. But going back and doing eight shows a week, I notice my voice getting stronger every night. It’s like anything, it’s like my body—when you go through the healing therapy it does deplete your muscles and a lot of your strength is taken, or is needed. I’m blessed with a good instrument.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF BROADWAY. 6.15 & 6.16 @ 8 PM. SYMPHONY HALL, 301 MASS. AVE., BOSTON. BSO.ORG