Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley, husband and wife, appeared at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Memorial Day evening, and will again each evening through June 1, celebrating (slightly in advance) their 20th anniversary. Mazzie has won the Outer Critics Circle Award and been nominated for the Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk Awards; sort of the Susan Lucci of musical theater – everyone is certain that she is deserving, but no one is sure about the timing. Danieley is a lauded (and decorated) Broadway tenor noted by, among others, Harold Prince for his acting and Ben Brantley for his voice. The pair met in an off-Broadway production of Trojan Women: A Love Story in 1996. Although each is a stellar performer individually, when they perform together it is a lovely thing to hear and to see. Cabaret and Broadway typically rely on slightly different musical skills. Cabaret, taking songs out of context, calls for musicality and emotion to deliver the goods. Theater requires channeling the character; musicality is subordinate. Mazzie and Danieley deliver both without strain. These are polished professionals who can be counted on to include something special with each performance.
The anniversary theme had Mazzie and Danieley performing songs from their performance careers – so the numbers themselves did not adhere to any organizing principle other than casting success. They opened with a duet medley from their Trojan Women production – significant to their marriage but less so musically. Nonetheless it was an effective welcome to a warmly supportive full house.
Mazzie followed this with a heartfelt “Hello Young Lovers” (Rogers & Hammerstein) from her recent portrayal of Anna Leonowens (The King and I) conveying a musical and emotional range that made one wish to have seen the entire performance. Danieley followed this with two numbers from South Pacific (again, Rogers & Hammerstein), “Younger than Springtime” (in a traditional but very effective rendition) and “You Have to be Carefully Taught.” Both performers project a warm and confident sound with the subtlety to overlay an appropriate emotional impact and the intelligence and experience to know the weight of the lyrics.
A few numbers down the road, Mazzie and Danieley performed the obligatory Sondheim medley – without which musical theater lovers cannot digest a meal (and the food was indeed appetizing). The medley was wonderful in all respects not the least of which is the brilliance of the lyrics and music. But Mazzie and Danieley did justice to both as actors and singers. The medley included a lovely rendition of “Happiness” (Passion), “Good Thing Going” and “Not a Day Goes By” (Merrily We Roll Along), an especially moving “Too Many Mornings” (Follies), and “Move On” (Sunday in the Park with George). They, and the audience, enjoyed particularly the varied and lush arrangements delivered by sidemen Joseph Thalken as music director, Peter Donovan on brass and Rich Rosensweig on percussion.
Emotional songs from the less well known The Visit and Curtains (both Kander & Ebb) and Fiorello (Bock & Harnick) brought back fond memories. Danieley had discussed the writing of “I Miss the Music” (Curtains) with John Kander who had, by that time, lost his long-time creative partner, Fred Ebb. Kander commented that he had in mind, when writing, not his own loss of Ebb but of how Mazzie and Danieley would address their mutual loss; the song was essentially written for them.
Mazzie shattered the somewhat nostalgic calm by discussing her diagnosis of ovarian cancer and subsequent remission, noting how her own thoughts were echoed by the lyrics of Kander and Ebb in “And The World Goes Round” from the show of the same name. A loving rendition of “Back to Before” from Ragtime (Aherns & Flaherty) got a well deserved electric response from the audience.
Mazzie and Danieley graciously thanked the staff of Feinstein’s/54 Below, especially the “mixologist” who had created a cocktail for the anniversary event – in a fair approximation of teal – the color now adopted to signify the battle against ovarian cancer, and the lighting guru who managed to bathe the room in a similarly exotic hue to lend atmosphere to the final number “Opposite You” (Aherns & Flaherty). A warm encore of “Our Love is Here to Stay” (Gershwin & Gershwin) closed the evening to a standing ovation. The audience could not have been more appreciative or enthusiastic with the evening, and they showed sound judgment.
Feinstein’s/54 Below offers a welcoming atmosphere, a gracious and efficient staff, a stylish performance space with a raised stage and nicely even amplification. Mazzie and Danieley are performing at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) from May 29 to June 1, 2017.