In May 2017, Broadway couple Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie performed a residency of concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below known as Broadway & Beyond: Live at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Mazzie, a three-time Tony Award nominee and 2019 Special Tony Award recipient, was in remission from ovarian cancer—a fight she had been very open about—and feeling good. And yet, it was the last time the two performed together in New York.
Mazzie passed away September 13, 2018, and one of Danieley and Mazzie’s regrets was that they hadn’t made it into the recording studio together. As fate would have it, Feinstein’s/54 Below had made a high quality recording of Broadway & Beyond. The finished album from Broadway Records drops October 18.
Much of Danieley and Mazzie’s story seems to have been kissed by fate. The pair first met working together on an avante garde production of Trojan Women. Both had just come out of serious relationships and had Broadway gigs lined up—she with Ragtime and he with Candide. “That’s exactly when we were thrown together,” he says.
“It wasn’t like we were scouting the cast list to see if there’s anyone we were going to hook up with,” he says with a laugh. “It was like, ‘Oh yeah, I saw her in Passion. She was fantastic.’ ‘Oh yeah, I saw you in Floyd Collins. I loved that.’ We weren’t even in the show opposite one another … until my leading lady in Act 2 was fired and so the fates just [conspired].”
The connection was near instant. “It was not lost on us that it happened so quickly,” he says. “It was like a week, and that’s when I was like, ‘I think I love you,’ and she was like, ‘I think I love you,’ and a month later we were making wedding plans.”
During the run of Broadway & Beyond, Mazzie and Danieley celebrated 20 years of marriage. And, though they hadn’t planned to become a double act, they also marked decades of performing together—a partnership that first launched when Lincoln Center’s Ira Weitzman suggested they do a concert of duets for the American Songbook series. “From then on it was like, ‘You know what? This is really great. We can travel all over the world.’ Which we did,” says Danieley. “It was like a perfect partnership in every conceivable way as far as our temperaments, our work ethic, the way we sing together, our vocal parts.”
But Mazzie and Danieley also represent a special breed of musical theatre artist—the kind that constantly reexamines and whose art reflects their spirits. “The songs we programmed for that evening weren’t just because they meant something to us at one time, they continued to change,” he says. “I even sing ‘You Walk With Me’ from The Full Monty, which I hadn't sung in years because it didn't have a particular meaning to me, but when I heard some years ago that it was being sung at weddings in the LGBTQ community I thought, ‘Fantastic. What a way to show our support to that community than to have that song completely morph itself from a song at my mother's funeral to this sort of celebration of someone walking with you forever.’ Then, you know, subsequently, that song has changed yet again for me because now it holds the idea of Marin always walking with me.”
To this day, there are moments Danieley will never forget. “Whenever she sang ‘Back to Before,’ she would take off her shoes because she felt that she wanted to be as close to the earth as she could when she sang that song,” he says. “Every time she sang ‘Back to Before’ it meant something different, whether she was talking about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, equal pay, her cancer journey….
“She never gave anything less than 100 percent and was committed to every single word, phrase, note, everything, without being fastidious about phrasing. She just organically was present,” he says. “We both were, and that’s why we loved performing together.”
Danieley confesses “it’s hard for me to listen to the album” but the night is crystallized in his mind. “I’m just remembering that as being the most…we loved each other equally through our whole relationship, but it was probably the most deeply we’ve ever loved one another because of our situation,” he says. “To celebrate the work and our relationship, 20 years married and 20 years singing is something to be proud of.”
And, Danieley is proud that this concert is preserved as a recording and as a forthcoming DVD. He loves sharing Mazzie with the world. “Everyone knows their version of her and they're all right,” he says. “Some people think of her as Clara and Mother this sort of, pulled together, you know, WASPy, beautiful soprano. And then there's the people who saw Bullets [Over Broadway] and Kiss Me, Kate and know that she's bawdy and a belter with an irreverent sense of humor. They're both right.”
What fewer people internalized was her generosity. “Show business is extraordinarily difficult, and it takes a lot of your emotions, your ego, your mental health, and so whenever I was dealing with anxiety or depression, as many of us do, Marin was not demanding of me; she was just patient. So she was my caregiver,” he says. “She was as much a caregiver when she was going through her cancer of me, knowing that I was going through a very difficult time watching her. So we just kept caring for one another.
And when you hear them sing songs like “Opposite You,” “Younger Than Springtime,” and their wedding song, “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” you can tell.
“It's beyond anything that I could have ever… dreamed back in 1996 and 22 years later she would be taking care of me in that very simple but extraordinary way,” he says. “There are just too many sides of her that I would have to write a book to really let everybody know.”