Marin Mazzie at Feinsteins, “A Chorus Line” returns
If Bernadette Peters and Patti Lupone ever decide to really hang it up, there’s a lot of talent waiting in the wings to take over as Broadway Musical Queen. Christine Ebersole is approaching legendary status, playing both Edie Beales in “Grey Gardens,” while Sherie Rene Scott is utterly dazzling in “Landscape of the Body,” and then there’s Marin Mazzie. Having recently triumphed in “On the Twentieth Century” and “Kismet,” Mazzie will be performing at Feinstein’s at the Regency on May 15, hopefully with hubbie, the equally talented Jason Daniely (“The Full Monty,” “South Pacific”).
“Jason and I were supposed to be doing this together, but he’s on doctor orders/vocal rest,” the ebullient Mazzie told me. “He was in rehearsals for “Zhivago” at the La Jolla Playhouse, but had to drop out because of some vocal problems. He may be able to do our show, which is the music of Jerry Herman and Kander & Ebb. It’s jam-packed with fantastic songs, all little one acts within themselves and what’s great about doing them as an actor, is that I can dig into them and let it rip. There’s a medley of “Maybe This Time”/Before the Parade Passes By,” and “The World Goes Round,” “If He Walked Into My Life,” “Time Heals Everything,” “Ring Them Bells,” a lot of the biggies and some lesser known ones.”
Mazzie, with a three-octave range that goes from operatic trilling to a powerful belt, also has the charismatic glamour, wit and sexiness which have always set her apart from the kind of totally competent but bland Broadway leading lady I class as “A-plus Juilliard student.” “My voice goes all over the place from soprano,” she said, “and I sing songs in keys that I feel they should live in for my body. I don’t consciously choose belt-y songs, but, with ‘The World Goes Round,’ you can’t sing it up in fourths, you gotta belt it out. When we redid ‘Kiss Me Kate,’ we lowered the keys because I felt they needed to be in a different place for the way I approached the role. I think that the role’s originator, Patricia Morison, was amazing, but it was a different kind of singing back then. You either sang soprano or you did Merman belts, whereas now, I and many of my colleagues—like Ebersole—do both. We have a big range and can use it all in a show.”
Although Mazzie says her dream role hasn’t been written yet, and she prefers to create something entirely original, she wouldn’t mind sinking her chops into some of Sondheim’s meaty women’s roles. She appeared in his 1994 “Passion,” memorable for its opening scene in which she was nude, in bed with Jere Shea—“He had a bad back and he had to use tiger balm or Ben Gay, which somehow got onto the fabric of his g-string. I sat on it, and had a body part on fire. I don’t know how racy you wanna get, but ‘Pussy on Fire!’ was what I sang when I came offstage, to the tune of “City on Fire,” from ‘Sweeney Todd.’ It wasn’t so funny when it happened, believe me—it hurt—and, yes, Sondheim has heard this story and appreciated it, oh yeah!”
Mazzie, who began her New York career 23 years ago, told me the secret of her youthful radiance— “I married a younger man—Jason’s 11 years younger. We met during an avant-garde theatre production at the East River Park ampitheatre on the Lower East Side. It was ‘The Trojan Women: a love story,’ adapted by Chuck Mee and directed by Tina Landau. Jason played Aeneas and I was Helen of Troy and Dido. I drowned him in a hot tub at the end of the show, and that bonded us forever.”
On April 26, at the Hudson Theatre, PR firm Barlow Hartman hosted a thrilling introduction to the 2006 cast of the Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line,” opening October 5. Original creators Marvin Hamlisch and Bob Avian were on hand, and both mentioned they felt the spirit of Michael Bennett carefully watching every move of this new production. Then the most gorgeous array of talent came out wearing the original Theoni V. Aldredge costumes—camera-eager and looking ready to put on the show—as they assumed and held the iconic positions of the original cast lineup. Charlotte D’Amboise was radiant, in “Cassie’s” red leotard and skirt, and I spoke with Jason Tam, cast in the groundbreaking gay role of “Paul.”
The 23-year-old NYU grad hails from the pleasant Honolulu suburb of Aina Haina, and went to Punahou School—my alma mater.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to be chosen from 1,600 actors. My ethnic background is Caucasian- Hawaiian-Chinese. Paul is an interesting character who doesn’t look Puerto Rican or Italian, kind of an in-betweener, so that’s maybe why I can pull it off a little bit. I auditioned last June, and prepared the 16 bars Paul sings (“Who am I anyway?”), as well as the big monologue. They never specified that I had to be off book but it’s such a meaty monologue that I wanted to be available, emotionally, and not have pages in my hand, so I memorized the entire thing. I was out of it for five months and they kept auditioning people and then my agent said they were interested in seeing me again. I finally got back to the city for the very end of the auditions, came for a callback on Thursday, and on Monday had to come back for final, final callback.”
Another Hawaiian boy, the late Tommy Aguilar, was a replacement Paul in the original production, and created the role in London. “He took me from the community realm to the professional world of theatre, and encouraged me to audition for the ‘Les Mis’ road company. It’s interesting to see how things come full circle. As a young actor, I don’t have hesitations about playing a gay character. It’s an amazing role, as they all are, based on real people. I guess I’m bi, sort of figuring things out, so I guess I can kind of relate to what’s going on with Paul. I started dancing in freshman high school year, and studied with a Hawaii dance group, 24/7, lots of hip hop.”
Jason auditioned for the “Tarzan” lead but was considered to be too young looking. You can catch him this June on MTV’s Hawaii-based “Beyond the Break.”
Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@aol.com.