Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley have been Broadway’s golden couple since they married in 1997. Their current cabaret — which they brought to McCarter Theatre Center — celebrates not only their two decades of love but the individual and joint triumphs of their still thriving careers.
Something old, something not so new
Given its retrospective theme, the concert felt pervasively familiar. In some cases, the choice of repertoire, while exceptionally performed, didn’t bring anything new to the table. This was particularly evident in a suite of songs by Stephen Sondheim that dominated the middle section of the hourlong program.
The suite opened with “Happiness” from Passion. Mazzie originated the role of Clara, an unfulfilled housewife in 19th-century Italy who carries on an affair with Giorgio, a dashing army captain. Passion contains some of Sondheim’s most rapturously beautiful music, and “Happiness” bursts forth with swelling major chords that capture Clara and Giorgio’s erotic desire. (Pianist Joseph Thalken played distinctively throughout the suite). But divorced from the context of the show — in which Giorgio must choose between carnal love (represented by Clara) and cerebral love (represented by the ugly, dying Signora Fosca) — the duet feels facile, a collection of empty paeans set to pretty music.
Elsewhere in the suite, which Mazzie and Danieley premiered on their 2005 album Opposite You, I was struck by how closely the current assumption mirrored my memory of their recorded version, which I hadn’t heard in more than a decade. A quick listen to the disc via Spotify on my car ride home confirmed my suspicions.
Danieley’s regret-tinged reading of “Good Thing Going” and Mazzie’s baleful “Not a Day Goes By,” both from Merrily We Roll Along, hardly varied in intonation or interpretation. The same could be said for their passionate “Too Many Mornings” (from Follies) and their gently touching take on “Move On” (from Sunday in the Park with George). While it’s commendable that they sound as fresh as their younger selves, one longs for a bit more variation in the concert setting.
Strength and resilience
Indeed, the evening’s best material came when Mazzie or Danieley infused a standard with a new level of meaning. After singing a ravishing “Younger than Springtime,” in which the song’s final phrase spun out on a single sustained breath, Danieley launched into a fiery rendition of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” — a song, he noted, that has only become more relevant in recent months. Likewise, Mazzie’s impassioned delivery of her signature “Back to Before,” from Ragtime, captured women’s strength and resilience.
But perhaps the most moving moment came when Danieley performed “You Walk with Me,” which he premiered in David Yazbeck and Terrence McNally’s The Full Monty. Although not mentioned during the concert, Mazzie has been living with stage IV ovarian cancer for nearly three years. Both Mazzie and Danieley have been unflaggingly honest about the challenges of managing a terminal disease in print and on social media, becoming strong advocates for women with cancer everywhere.
In the context of the musical, “You Walk with Me” is performed at a funeral. But Danieley remarked that he’s been told it’s now becoming a favorite at weddings. As Danieley sang the simple, lovely refrain — “I’m never alone, for you walk with me” — the choke in his voice was evident. Near the conclusion, he lifted his left hand and kissed his wedding ring, as Mazzie looked on with an expression of pure love. Never alone, indeed.
The theme of the concert, and of the relationship it celebrates, could best be described by the choice of encore: “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” Here’s hoping that remains true for many years to come.