Three-time Tony nominee Marin Mazzie has played some of the great characters in recent musical theater, include leads in Kiss Me Kate, Next to Normal and Ragtime. But beginning last night, she’s taken on a heretofore unknown role: herself.
And not just all of her, but Mazzie’s early, formative years in Rockford, Illinois. The performer takes the stage at 54 Below to shed light on some of the pop songs she consumed as an avid radio listener and how they helped create a love of musical performance in addition to shaping the early soundtrack of her life. For nearly an hour, the Passion star, clad in a form-fitting white cocktail dress adorned with gold beads offered a musical mystery tour of the late 1960s and into 1970s, providing clues to the tunes and performers that became passions of her own.
Mazzie began with some of the standards that she enjoyed with the rest of her family, including “Come on-a My House,” to which she would watch her parents dance together, as well as another Rosemary Clooney favorite, “Tenderly” (featuring a mood-setting arrangement by bassist Peter Donovan). She also performed “That’s All” and a sexy “Begin the Beguine” (backed by Larry Lalli on drums).
Then Mazzie got a bit more personal. After confessing childhood crushes on David Cassidy (and performing “I Think I Love You”) and The Monkees’ late Davey Jones, Mazzie delved into her high school years – and the songs got a bit more sophisticated. The performer matured real quick bringing to life Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis” and Carly Simon’s evaluation of adulthood, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.” Of course, ever the actress, Mazzie let her dramatic colors fly loud on proud on two of the evening’s showstoppers, Dionne Warwick’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who recently passed away) and Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England.”
Throughout the show (tautly directed with pep by Scott Burkell), Mazzie peppered in anecdotes about her teen years. None was more amusing than her description of a mass ring ceremony in which she sang a slightly neutered version of the Barbra Streisand-Paul Williams Oscar-winner, “Evergreen” (and joked about being so devoted she even felt obligated to perm her hair). Mazzie also had fun reviving Cass Elliot’s “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and banging a tambourine in tribute to Mr. Jones on The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.” She wasn’t the only one. After witnessing this window into the soul of one of Broadway’s most incandescent performers, Mazzie was playing to a room full of believers. Anyone who had a heart would be a fool not to be.
Mazzie performs at 54 Below through Sept. 8. Tickets can be purchased at www.54Below.com.
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