BWW Interviews: NORMAL's Mazzie & Danieley
Three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie and her husband, Broadway veteran Jason Danieley, are starring in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Next to Normal, where they portray married couple Diana and Dan Goodman (note, plot points revealed in the conversaton). Mazzie and Danieley first appeared on stage together in 1996 in the off-Broadway play, The Trojan Women: A Love Story.
Broadway World reporter Nick Orlando spoke with Mazzie and Danieley about the powerful musical.
I saw the show a couple of weeks ago and it is so moving and emotional. It starts off funny, but becomes very serious when Diana brings out the birthday cake, and we learn the nature and depth of her illness. What did you think of the progression of the show from opening to closing?
Marin Mazzie: It is the journey of the piece. You are meeting this family who is somewhat normal and then you realize what is going on. It is brilliant the way this piece draws in the audience. You get to see what this family has been dealing with for the last 16 years of their life. You can watch how this family is functioning or not functioning.
Jason Danieley: We are educated little bit by little bit. By the end, with the set up of humor when the cake comes into play, etc. you are so vested in these people.
MM: You have to open yourself up emotionally.
What is it like for Dan knowing his wife is bipolar, but there is nothing he can do about it?
JD: When the play starts, the issues have been going on for many years. Dan is frustrated with the medical profession. He feels optimistic, even if it's delusional. By the end, he is realistic; the best thing for the marriage is for Diana to leave. He wasn't able to help her.
MM: Dan did what he thought was right. It is such a difficult thing to be in that position and trying to manage what he is trying to do. It is very admirable.
Did you see the show prior to being cast?
MM: Yes, when they approached us, we saw the show.
JD: We didn't get around to seeing it before hand.
The producers called and asked the two of you to come in together?
JD: Yes, and we saw the musical and said we have to do this show! It is the first show we are doing together on Broadway, and it was a no brainer.
Is it more difficult coming in as a replacement?
MM: I don't look at things as being more difficult. The process was great. Our director, Michael Greif, was very helpful.
What were rehearsals like for you?
MM: We had three and a half weeks to rehearse. Michael was with us quite a bit. Meghann Fahy [previously the understudy] came in as well to play our daughter. So, we were pretty much starting with a new family.
How was it connecting to the kids?
MM: The minute I met Meghann, I thought she could be our daughter. I felt a deep connection. I feel Kyle Dean Massey is our son. I am so protective of him.
JD: The entire company is wonderful. Everyone in that cast will grab what you give them and run with it.
What kind of research did you need to do to learn about this disorder?
MM: I read a lot of books that Michael Greif suggested, as well as others. Two different people in our family had similar illnesses, so we had that to draw on. Someone who lives near us is schizophrenic. Unless you have the disease, you don't realize what these people are going through.
Have you heard from audience members about how the show affected them?
MM: Yes, either at the stage door or from people who write to me. I've heard from people who are bipolar or have a family member who is; it is extremely moving. I heard from parents who lost a child. The audience says ‘this is me, this is my family.'
JD: Bipolar doesn't necessarily mean schizophrenic. Diana appears normal.
By the end of the show, there was not a dry eye in the house. Do the performances take a physical toll on you?
MM: It is taking a toll of my face! I have bags under my eyes.
JD: At the stage door, people say it is so nice to see you smile. It is emotionally and physically draining. Marin is able to express her emotions and I have to cap my emotions until the end. After five weekend shows, on Monday morning, we both stay in bed a bit longer.
MM: By the Sunday evening performance, it is draining.
JD: It is satisfying to go there emotionally, but it is tough. The audience tells us we made them cry so much.
MM: The show is sad, but hopeful at the end. Diana has some clarity. She has come to realize that she has a daughter. She and Natalie will have a relationship.
What are you feeling when you are both walking off the stage at the end of the performance?
MM: We get to walk off the stage together. Most nights, it is the emotion of the audience. When it is quiet, I can hear the open sobs, which is moving. You see people truly moved by this piece. As an actor, it is extraordinarily satisfying. It is telling a story that helps people.
Do you lean on each other for support at any point during the performance?
MM: I rarely see Jason during the show, but I know he is there for me.
How do you unwind after each show?
MM: Red wine!
JD: We do anything that is completely opposite. We put the show behind us until the next morning.
MM: We watch the Travel channel, "True Blood," "Nurse Jackie." The character they created for Edie Falco is amazing. I can't wait for the next season.
Seeing a show this powerful makes you count your blessings. What did you learn from the musical?
MM: The blessings we have - my husband and my family. The support I have. I am here because of the love and support of my parents. I think about the relationship I have with my husband.
JD: It's a therapy session once per night. In scenes, I think to myself, how is Dan relating to Diana and what would I do if it were Marin. I have always been self-aware.
MM: When we walk out into the world, so many people have so many difficult situations going on.
What's the key to your real life relationship?
JD: [Putting the relationship] first and foremost.
MM: A deep level of trust, respect and honesty. And love, of course!
Marin, this role and your last Broadway role are completely opposite!
MM: It certainly is. I love Enron.
JD: The play!
Yes, not the actual company!
MM: Right. Again, we had an extraordinary cast and we created something amazing. It didn't land the way we would have liked it. I'm sorry more people did not get to see it.
What's another Broadway show you would want to do together?
MM: We would like for someone to write something for us. Also, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
JD: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has been on our top five lists since we met. Something written for us would be great - it is always the show you don't know about....
Jason, can you tell us a little about your band, The Frontier Heroes?
JD: We have been playing around the city for the last two years. We've played Joe's Pub, Birdland, Feinstein's. I grew up in St. Louis, and my family all played instruments. So, it's based on my family band. We played for personal satisfaction. We perform anything from country to blues to Broadway to standards; any kind of American popular music. It has a St. Louis kind of feel to it. I met a lot of musicians in New York with a similar interest.
MM: I love Jason's wealth of knowledge of music of all kinds. For me to have watched this develop is amazing.
Any upcoming gigs?
JD: We have a monthly gig at 45 Bleecker starting in September. After Next to Normal, me and my musicians will play from about 10:30p to 11:30p.
You can check out Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley in Next to Normal, which is playing the Booth Theatre (222 West 45th Street). For more information on Mazzie or Danieley, visit: www.marinmazzie.com or www.jasondanieley.com. To purchase tickets, go to: www.telecharge.com.
From This Author Nick Orlando