Marin Mazzie, 57, Broadway star (Ragtime, Passion)
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2018-09-13 20:31:14 UTC
Marin Mazzie, Star of Ragtime and Passion, Dies at 57
The beloved theatre veteran earned three Tony Award nominations throughout her illustrious Broadway career.
SEP 13, 2018

Marin Mazzie, the theatre star who created roles in Broadway musicals by Stephen Sondheim, Ahrens and Flaherty, and more, died September 13 morning, surrounded by her family and friends, at 57 following a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. Her death was confirmed to Playbill by her publicist, Kim Correro.

Throughout a series of challenging treatments, including after announcing her remission in January 2016, the Passion and Ragtime star continued to display strength and resilience on the stage, including in multiple concert engagements with her husband, fellow Broadway performer Jason Danieley. Several songs they had regularly performed together took on new meanings, such as Sondheim's "Move On" and "Not a Day Goes By." "[It] plays differently now because of where we've been," she told Playbill in 2017.

Earlier this year, she appeared Off-Broadway in Terrence McNally's Fire and Air at Classic Stage Company.

Ms. Mazzie was born October 9, 1960, in Rockford, Illinois, and studied theatre and music at Western Michigan University. Just months after relocating to New York City, she made her Off-Broadway debut in an Equity Library Theatre revival of Frank Loesser and George Abbott’s Where’s Charley?

She made her Broadway debut in 1985 (a week after her 25th birthday) in Big River, playing Mary Jane Wilkes, one of the sisters hoodwinked by the two con men in the Huckleberry Finn musical, and who provides a wisp of a romantic interest for Huck, singing three songs including “Leavin’s Not the Only Way to Go.” Ms. Mazzie subsequently played Rapunzel and understudied Cinderella and The Witch during the original run of Into the Woods.

She came to stardom (and earned her first Tony Award nomination) originating the role of Clara in Stephen Sondheim’s 1994 musical Passion, completing the impassioned love triangle alongside Jere Shea and Donna Murphy.

Next, she went on to introduce one of the most beloved theatre songs of the 1990s, “Back to Before,” in the 1998 Ahrens & Flaherty musical Ragtime, playing a mother at the turn of the 20th century who has her eyes opened about race relations, the true nature of her relationship with her husband, and her own privilege. This performance earned her a second Tony nomination.

She and Ragtime co-star Brian Stokes Mitchell were paired again in their next show, the 1999 revival of Kiss Me, Kate, in which she stopped the show with her fiery rendition of Cole Porter’s “I Hate Men.” For this next Broadway outing, she was bestowed a third consecutive Tony nomination. The performance also won her a 2000 Outer Critics Circle Award.

The timing of the song was ironic. While previously appearing in an Off-Broadway production of Trojan Women: A Love Story, she met and fell in love with fellow actor Jason Danieley. They were married in 1997. They often toured around the U.S. in a series of concerts that reflected on their romance. They later released an album of these songs, Opposite You, on the P.S. Classics label.

As her offstage romance was blooming, her onstage pairing with Mitchell continued in 2002 when she took over the role of Aldonza/Dulcinea in Man of La Mancha. Ms. Mazzie subsequently replaced Tony winner Sara Ramirez as The Lady of the Lake in Spamalot, and replaced Tony winner Alice Ripley in the lead role of Diana in the musical Next to Normal, about a woman and her family coming to grips with mental illness, at last sharing the Broadway stage with Danieley, who stepped into the role of Dan.

While Ms. Mazzie's career focused primarily on stage work, she enjoyed a successful run from 2003 to 2006 as the religious Kathy Halverson in five episodes of the CBS sitcom Still Standing.

Ms. Mazzie returned to the stage in 2010 in her first non-musical Broadway performance: the skeptical Claudia Roe in Enron, a drama about the real-life collapse of an energy company owing the the greed and heedlessness of its owners. Two years later, she starred in the Off-Broadway revival of the musical adaptation of Carrie, playing the deeply religious and frighteningly overbearing mother Margaret White.

In 2014, Ms. Mazzie won the role of grande dame Helen Sinclair in Wood Allen's 2014 musicalization of his film Bullets Over Broadway. She had taken on the role in developmental presentations, and following industry speculation over who would lead the show's Broadway bow (with several stage and screen stars reportedly in the mix), Ms. Mazzie ultimately came out on top, playing the charismatic stage diva who casts a spell on a young playwright while plotting her big comeback.

In May 2015, while rehearsing for the role of the Leader in the Off-Broadway Encores! revival of Kander and Ebb’s Zorba!, Ms. Mazzie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after experiencing abdominal pain.

After treatment at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital, surgery, and months of chemotherapy (which she referred to as "healing therapy"), Ms. Mazzie announced that she had beaten the disease. In spring 2016 she returned to the stage for what turned out to be her final Broadway appearance, as Anna Leonowens in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of The King and I.

“I do feel like my viewpoint of the world is different and how I value my life,” she reflected at the time. “Not that I didn’t value it before, but it has taken on a deeper sense for me…[How it feels to] be in those moments and inhabiting this woman with where I am now in my life.” In addition to performing, Ms. Mazzie committed to spreading awareness of ovarian cancer.

Last year, she was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame, along with Ragtime co-star McDonald. The ceremony was emceed by Susan Stroman, who directed Ms. Mazzie in Bullets Over Broadway.

Ms. Mazzie is survived by Danieley, her mother Donna Mazzie, and brother Mark Mazzie. A private gathering will take place in the immediate future, with details of a celebration of life to follow.

In 2016, Ms. Mazzie was honored with the first Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative "Dame" Award. She accepted it at the 2016 Nothing Like a Dame concert, at which she had the last word on her illness, singing an anthem she first sung in a musical revue early in her career: Kander and Ebb’s “And The World Goes 'Round.”

2018-09-13 20:36:36 UTC
Marin Mazzie, Broadway Musical Star, Is Dead at 57
By Neil Genzlinger
Sept. 13, 2018

Marin Mazzie, a sought-after musical-theater actress whose Broadway work earned her three Tony Award nominations in six years, died on Thursday at her home in Manhattan. She was 57.

Her husband, the actor Jason Danieley, said the cause was ovarian cancer, a disease she had spoken about often since receiving her diagnosis in 2015.

Ms. Mazzie’s impressive Broadway career spanned three decades, beginning with her debut as a replacement player in the original production of “Big River” in 1985. Her breakout role was as Clara in “Passion,” the 1994 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, for which she was nominated for a Tony as best featured actress in a musical. (The show itself was named best musical.)

Her next two Broadway appearances also brought her Tony nominations, both for best actress in a musical. One, in 1998, was for her performance as the stifled Mother in “Ragtime.” The other, in 2000, was for a role that was in some ways the polar opposite of Mother: the female lead in the 1999 revival of “Kiss Me, Kate,” the musical drawn from Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Ben Brantley, in a glowing review in The New York Times, found Ms. Mazzie’s versatility in the handling of her musical numbers especially noteworthy.

“Her outlandishly entertaining take on that great exercise in animosity, ‘I Hate Men,’ which here includes a vivid simulation of giving birth, goes over the top, for sure,” he wrote. “But it doesn’t go out of control. And when Ms. Mazzie needs to switch to a lyric sincerity, for ‘So in Love’ and ‘I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple,’ her soprano shimmers like polished silver.”

Ms. Mazzie continued to perform after her cancer diagnosis, appearing most recently on Broadway in 2016 in “The King and I” as a replacement for Kelli O’Hara in the role of Anna.

She also sang on concert stages and in cabarets all over the country. She and her husband (who is now appearing on Broadway in “Pretty Woman”) often performed together, creating two-handers from the American songbook. They were to unveil a new one, “Heart to Heart,” at the nightclub Feinstein’s/54 Below in Manhattan in mid-June, but had to cancel it because of Ms. Mazzie’s health.

Marin Joy Mazzie (pronounced MARE-in MAY-zee) was born on Oct. 9, 1960, in Rockford, Ill. Her father, John, ran a television station, and he and her mother, Donna, were devotees of musical theater, a passion reflected in their record collection.

“I just glommed onto the cast albums,” Ms. Mazzie told The Associated Press in 1998. “I would play the records in my bedroom and act out all the characters.”

She began taking singing lessons at 12. Then her family moved to Kalamazoo, Mich., where she attended Western Michigan University, graduating in 1982 with a minor in music and a major in theater. In 2003 she and another alumna of the university, the actress Barbara Marineau, teamed up for a pair of concerts there, proceeds from which were used to create a music theater performance scholarship that is now awarded in their names.

From 1980 to 1982 Ms. Mazzie was also a “Barnie,” working at the Barn, a famed summer theater in Kalamazoo. It was a fast-paced training ground that mounted a new show every couple of weeks, the actors performing in one while rehearsing the next. She earned her Actors Equity card there, and she returned several times in later years as a guest artist.

With the card and the college degree, Ms. Mazzie moved to New York, following a dream that was somewhat under-informed.

“I always wanted to move to New York and be on Broadway even before I had really been here,” Ms. Mazzie said years later. “I didn’t know what either of those things meant, but that’s what I wanted.”

She soon landed a dinner-theater job in Westchester County, N.Y., in the chorus of “Barnum.” In 1984 she was cast in a touring version of “Doonesbury,” the musical based on Garry Trudeau’s comic strip, which had been tepidly received on Broadway in 1983. That landed her in California, where, at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, Mr. Sondheim was reworking another musical that had failed on Broadway, with Mr. Lapine directing.

“I first met Marin when she was 24 and came in to audition for a production of ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ at La Jolla Playhouse,” Mr. Lapine recalled in an email interview on Thursday. “She seemed very young and very unsophisticated. She sang ‘Not a Day Goes By’ with such force and beauty that Sondheim and I hired her on the spot to play Beth.

“Years later she came in to audition for Clara in ‘Passion.’ We were stunned when she walked into the room. Suddenly Marin had matured into this gorgeous, sexy woman. She sang the first song from the show, and again, we hired her on the spot.”

Ms. Mazzie viewed her role in “Merrily” as a turning point.

“That was a big, big break for me in my career,” she told BroadwayWorld.com. “Being taught to sing ‘Not a Day Goes By’ by Stephen Sondheim himself? That’s something I will never forget.”

Back in New York, the connection paid off as Ms. Mazzie became a replacement player in “Into the Woods,” the Sondheim-Lapine hit. She then received a starring role in “Passion” alongside Donna Murphy and Jere Shea.

“Passion” opened with Ms. Mazzie and Mr. Shea naked in bed singing a duet, a scene that left some theatergoers wondering where the body microphones and battery-pack transmitters were. (Answer, according to a Times theater column: The microphones were in the wigs, as was Ms. Mazzie’s pack; Mr. Shea’s pack was in a pillow.)

Ms. Mazzie’s other Broadway credits included the short-lived play “Enron” (2010) and the Woody Allen musical “Bullets Over Broadway” (2014). One of her most rewarding Broadway experiences, she said, came in 2010, when she and her husband took over for Alice Ripley and Brian d’Arcy James as a couple struggling with her manic depression in “Next to Normal,” which had opened the year before.

Ms. Mazzie also worked extensively Off Broadway and in regional theaters. (She met her future husband when they were both in a 1996 production of Charles L. Mee Jr.’s “The Trojan Women: A Love Story” on the Lower East Side.)

In 2008 she sang with the New York Philharmonic in its production of “Camelot” at Avery Fisher Hall.

“Ms. Mazzie’s singing was luminous,” Anthony Tommasini wrote in his review in The Times, “and she makes a lovely Guenevere. Her portrayal grew stronger as the story turned darker, and the winsome queen, who dearly loves her husband, finds herself hopelessly drawn to the noble Lancelot.”

She was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame last year.

Besides her husband, whom she married in 1997, Ms. Mazzie is survived by her mother and a brother, Mark.

In May 2015, Ms. Mazzie was in an “Encores!” presentation of the musical “Zorba!” at New York City Center. The day it opened was the day she received her cancer diagnosis. She went on anyway.

“How ironic that I was singing: ‘Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die. Life is how time goes by,’ ” she told The Times that year, quoting a lyric from the show.

In “The King and I” in 2016, Ms. Mazzie played the teacher who comes to Siam to tutor the king’s children. She viewed the appearance as a chance to increase awareness about ovarian cancer and cancer-related gene testing.

“Hopefully I can help somebody,” she told Playbill. “That was really important, and that ties into Anna too. How she goes to this place to help people and educate them.”

© 2018 The New York Times Company