An Extraordinary Couple
Marin Mazzie & Jason Danieley make beautiful music together at the Kaplan Penthouse.
In our last column, we wrote about an act called Guy & Doll that largely used musical theater songs to tell a story about the nature of relationships. In this column, we consider a guy (Jason Danieley) and doll (Marin Mazzie) who, in a concert at the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center, largely used musical theater songs to tell a story about our relationship to The American Songbook. In the process, they both came across with undeniable appeal. It's something that happens in the best cabaret shows, particularly when Broadway stars are playing themselves: For the first time, one suddenly feels a personal connection to these stars that goes beyond admiration for their talents.
In this recent installment of Lincoln Center's American Songbook series, Broadway couple Mazzie & Danieley had more chemistry than DuPont. Mazzie entered on one side of the sparkling Kaplan Penthouse singing the "Indian Love Call" while Danieley responded from the entrance on the other side of the packed house, singing his response. A modern day Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, the two vocalized rapturously without microphones until they met on stage and began a sizzling, 16-song medley (the remainder with microphones) that was delightfully based on word association.
Early in their long opening medley, the couple challenged one another with "Anything You Can Do" from Annie Get Your Gun. These two musical dynamos went at it with an exciting combination of slyness and furious competition. Between Danieley's soaring tenor and Mazzie's voluptuous Broadway soprano, we thought we might witness an unforgettable vocal battle -- but then came a clever segué into Cole Porter's "Can Can" and they were off and running again. (Someday, we'd like to hear them sing "Anything You Can Do" right to the gasping finale.)
An unforgettable moment came later in the program when Mazzie and Danieley sang "Tonight" (from West Side Story) all the way through before heading into a sensational Sondheim medley. Danieley could play Tony in that show; he has the look and, certainly, the voice. The platinum blonde Mazzie would never be cast as Maria but she could sure get Marni Nixon's job of singing the role for an audio recording. Not only were the couple's voices utterly thrilling, there was the added frisson of hearing (and seeing) this song sung in a penthouse atop Lincoln Center with the city's lights glittering behind the singers through floor-to-ceiling windows. And as one last, delicious bit of soul-stirring connection: the number was being performed where some of the on- location photography for the film of West Side Story took place, in the slums that Lincoln Center replaced.
The show's patter was exceptionally well scripted; Mazzie and Danieley didn't talk a lot, but what they said was often funny in a mock-competitive way. At one point as they bantered, trying to one-up each other, Mazzie proudly noted that she has had three Tony Award nominations. Danieley had to admit he had none -- but pointed out that he is 31. After a long comic pause, rather than answer, Mazzie cued the band to start playing. As for Danieley's vocal contribution to the show, he has a bright and beautiful, if somewhat thin, tenor -- or, at least it seems thin compared to Mazzie's full-throated, voluptuous tones. Mazzie is a sensitive actress, as well. The essential point is that these two are terrific on stage together.
The American Songbook series continued on subsequent nights last week with performances by Karen Mason and John Barrowman. On November 15, the series has Brian d'Arcy James hooking up with Robert Kapilow for what promises to be an enlightening evening called What Makes Leonard Bernstein Great? And the following night, November 16, La Chanze (Once on This Island) will perform. All shows are at the Kaplan Penthouse.