Marin Mazzie Charms at 54 Below with Voice of Velvet and Silk

News   Marin Mazzie Charms at 54 Below with Voice of Velvet and Silk
This past week, three-time Tony-nominated Broadway favorite Marin Mazzie brought her acclaimed club act back to 54 Below, where she debuted it in 2012.

Marin Mazzie
Marin Mazzie Photo by Mike Sharkey

Catching this concert, fans of her many Broadway roles might at first be surprised or disappointed to discover a set list essentially devoid of showtunes. They needn’t worry. From the moment Mazzie opens her distinctively large mouth, it’s clear that her singular voice—an impressively rangy and smooth instrument, which erupts effortlessly in velvet and silk—is to be well showcased in this program.

Looking dazzling and at least a decade shy of her fifty-something years, in an elegant gold-beaded cocktail dress, she takes the stage and launches immediately into a freshly unadorned rendition of the Rosemary Clooney hit, “Come on-a My House.” With her warm, womanly sound and presence, Mazzie is an effective interpreter of the Clooney songbook, and the audience is soon treated to an especially rich performance of “Tenderly.” There are actually only a couple of other standards (including a scintillating percussive arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Beguine The Beguine,” a worthy homage to Sammy Davis, Jr.’s recording), and then it’s on to pop music of the 1960s and 1970s.

Mazzie playfully explains the direction the evening will take, which is a trip down memory lane, a sort of musical memoir of her childhood in suburban Illinois, focusing on the songs that moved her and made her want to sing (into her purple hairbrush, we’re told). Later in the show, she intimates that, as an adolescent, she used the hairbrush for other, more erotic purposes. There’s something wonderful about Mazzie, a celebrated Broadway actress casually sharing what might, in another era, have been taboo, particularly for a woman. It jibes perfectly with the post-Sexual Revolution genre of music she loves and shares with her audience. Indeed, despite the frank chat and musical styles, this is basically a traditional cabaret act. This many decades after Mazzie’s beloved Monkees topped the charts, songs by Burt Bacharach and Barbra Streisand and Dusty Springfield and Carly Simon are standards; the Great American Songbook has been expanded.

Mazzie makes this point convincingly, pouring her lush voice into popular songs that defy the old-fashioned idea of a musical theatre singer. For all her soprano chops and belt gravitas, Mazzie has been at the forefront of a generation of Broadway stars who grew up on another era’s music and whose voices are versatile enough to do it justice. There is no loss in legitimacy going from Mama Cass’s seminal original recording of “Make Your Own Kind of Music” to Mazzie’s moving cover. Similarly, her passionate “Anyone Who Had A Heart” is as powerful as Dionne Warwick’s 1963 hit.

All of this forges an appealing connection between the audience, the Marin Mazzie on stage and the conjured-up Marin Mazzie of years past. We are engaged to the level of being transported to moments in her back-story, and the catharsis of the shared journey creates a context for these popular songs to move us in the way a showtune would. When it comes to Marin Mazzie, to quote her encore, “I’m A Believer.”

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