PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Jason Danieley, of Chicago's Hit Sunday in the Park With George

By Kenneth Jones
27 Oct 2012

Danieley and Carmen Cusack in Act Two.
Photo by Liz Lauren

The artistic act is primary to both Georges. Romance, human connection and love are incidental. Or are they?
JD: I think it's a different kind of love. It's not a romantic love with another human being. I think, obviously, in both acts, it's the love for what he does — the art. I think that's the primary romance in the piece. [With Seurat,] art has really enveloped him, and, actually, art loves him back as much as he loves it. For Act Two George, I think he tries to have a relationship with his ex-wife, but it's really about his love for Marie, for his grandmother — [she's] that connection to art that he's missing. So, yeah, I guess it's not a typical South Pacific romance scenario. [Laughs.]

Have you worked in Chicago before?
JD: I joined the first national tour of Phantom of the Opera — my first national tour — about 20 years ago, I guess, or 18 years ago. So I was here for a few months before we moved on. I've not done any Chicago theatre. This is my first here, and I've sung with the Grant Park Symphony as recent as July. That's where Gary and I reacquainted ourselves because we did an Encores! show together, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. After the [Grant Park] concert, which Marin and I did with Rebecca Luker and Howard McGillin, not unlike a "Putting It Together" scenario, we were at the closing-night party — walking around, schmoozing — and Gary said, "Hey, we're looking for a George. Have you ever thought about doing Sunday in the Park With George?" And I was like, "You've got to be kidding me!"

Speaking of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it was more proof that you seem at ease with a lot of different musical colors — in that case, a traditional '50s musical by Arthur Schwartz and Dorothy Field. I always thought of you as an eclectic actor-singer — that you can do the pop of The Full Monty, the rock of Next to Normal, the country-folk of your band The Frontier Heroes. Do you feel like you have a specific sweet spot, musically?
JD: Thank you, first off. And, I like to think that all of those are a part of me and that they hold equal importance to me — the classical and the country and difficult music theatre, à la Sondheim or Adam Guettel or…

Bernstein — I should have mentioned Candide.
JD: Bernstein! Or something as fun and pop as Full Monty or even Next to Normal. I like to consider myself all of that, so I'll just take it!


Danieley in Sunday in the Park
photo by Liz Lauren

Are your tastes as a fan as eclectic? What do you listen to on your iPod?
JD: It is a mix of all that stuff. James Taylor is one of my idols. Same time: Tony Bennett and Luciano Pavarotti. I don't necessarily listen to Luciano on a regular basis, but I do have my moments of classical. I'll have to listen to something classical when I'm doing something around the house.

You and Marin are doing the Playbill Broadway On the High Seas cruise later this year. Will you perform your Opposite You songs or your Café Carlyle He Said/She Said act?
JD: We'll be doing He Said/She Said. And then she'll also be doing her solo show that she just did at 54 Below, which doesn't have a name — doesn't have a title — it's just Marin at 54 Below.

But on the high seas, off South America.
JD: I heard her show was extraordinary. I didn't get to see it because I was here, but by all accounts…

What's the conversation like between you and Marin when you're cooking up a new act together? Do you think "theme" first?
JD: [Laughs.] Well, it's complex, and not a quick process. [Laughs.] When we put a show together, we start with, "What do you want to sing?" And, I found through Opposite You and through working with my band, Frontier Heroes, and putting together concerts, that if you just put the songs together that you want to do, somehow a theme shows itself to you. So the theme comes later.

So if you and Marin are out seeing a Broadway show somewhere, might you turn to her and say, "I want that for our show"?
JD: We don't, really. … They tend to come from our personal experience outside of theatre.

What's your guilty pleasure, musically?
JD: Oh, God! The music that I grew up in the '80s — high school. Kenny Rogers. [Laughs.] He was actually probably, for me, a real big influence growing up because he was the real crossover of country and pop. And, I think Lionel Richie produced one of his albums. He's one of my guilty pleasures.

You know, Jason, you've got to know when to hold 'em, and you've got to know when to fold 'em.
JD: You need to know when to walk away, and you need to know when to run! 

(Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.)

View video highlights of Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Sunday in the Park With George.