InDepth InterView: Marin Mazzie Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, RAGTIME, CARRIE, Sondheim & More
Today we are talking to a Broadway superstar beloved from the time of her breakthrough performance in the original cast of Stephen Sondheim's PASSION nearly twenty years ago all the way to two tremendous revivals in the early 00s - KISS ME, KATE and MAN OF LA MANCHA - to her most recent trio of roles on Broadway, first appearing in the straight drama ENRON, then as the troubled lead character of Diana in the Pulitzer Prize-winning NEXT TO NORMAL, and, most recently, as the tortured Margaret White in the long-awaited New York return of CARRIE - the one and only Marin Mazzie. Recalling many memories of working on the original productions of such seminal musicals as INTO THE WOODS, PASSION, RAGTIME, SPAMALOT and NEXT TO NORMAL with some of Broadway's best and brightest talents, Mazzie expresses her sincere appreciation for the unforgettable shows she has been associated with and opens up about her experiences as both an originator of a role, as in the cases of PASSION and RAGTIME, and also as a replacement star and the challenges that that position poses for a performer. Additionally, Mazzie shares her enthusiasm for the words and music of the Tony Award-winning RAGTIME creators Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, whom she will be saluting alongside a starry assortment of notables on Monday at the NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala at Carnegie Hall. Plus, Mazzie clues us in on all aspects of her journey with the recent New York reworking and reappraisal of CARRIE - she was just nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress In a Musical this morning - and gives us first news on recording the cast album, which is set for a Fall release, as well as news on her second duets album with husband, Jason Danieley and solo album thoughts. All of that and much, much more!
The New York Pops 29th Birthday Gala: JOURNEY ON will be presented on April 30 at 7 PM. More information is available here.
Check out the previous entries in this series with InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens, available here, and, InDepth InterView: Stephen Flaherty, available here.
PC: Is RAGTIME the big show that people remember you for most or would you also say a large portion of your audience knows you from your Sondheim work - particularly since PASSION is readily available on DVD?
MM: I think it's both. It kind of depends on people's interest. Plus, you know, I think that the Sondheim people usually love RAGTIME, too - it's usually all the same group of people, I've found. But, what I love is that RAGTIME is amazing on its own, or, for people who loved PASSION, too. PASSION wasn't as big of a show as RAGTIME was, but people have discovered again and again over the years, which is great, so it's a bit of both.
PC: It's so wonderful that your first original role in a Broadway musical was preserved on film like it was for PASSION.
MM: Very, very amazing and wonderful - yes.
PC: HD technology allows for so much - the SONDHEIM! Concert that you did with Lonny Price directing was especially spectacular.
MM: Yeah, I did the CAMELOT concert with him, too, for PBS - which unfortunately never got released.
PC: Those filmed performances Lonny does are really providing theatre to so many people who don't have access to Broadway or tours.
MM: I do think it's great marketing, too - I think people are seeing theatre and are getting interested in theatre because of those and I do think it encourages people to come to New York to see things. You know, you can get cheap seats to a lot of shows, still - maybe not BOOK OF MORMON or WICKED, but pretty much everything else.
PC: There are a lot of shows out there.
MM: There are - and a lot of good ones. I think it's really great that people get interested in theatre by watching these things on DVD or wherever they see them now and that it inspires them to start doing theatre in their community - it's all about that, really, anyway, isn't it?
PC: It is. What was your theatre training like growing up?
MM: Well, I grew up in Rockford, Illinois and I went to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I ended up moving to New York after I graduated from college, but I did not go to a professional acting school. I got my Equity card at this wonderful Summer stock theatre that is right outside of Kalamazoo that was an Equity house for many, many years, but now it is struggling. It's sad.
PC: What a shame.
MM: It was run by this sweet couple for many years and so many people go their Equity cards there - Tom Wopat, Becky Baker, myself - and a whole lot of people worked there over the years. That's where I got a lot of great training for college and a lot of great training in general - I did three Summers there for Summer Stock; two-week Summer stock and all of that. So, that's where I kind of grew up, I think.
PC: What training did you have prior to that?
MM: Well, I started singing when I was very young - I started voice lessons in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois when I was 12. There was a wonderful teacher that I had who is no longer living named Stella and she really set the tone for my singing. I am so grateful for the training she gave me - we studied mostly classically, which is, in my opinion, the way to go with a female voice; everything else kind of develops around that. So, I developed that training at a young age and I still study that way today.
PC: What was your first meeting with Sondheim like? You worked with him quite early in your career.
MM: Yes, I first worked with Steve Sondheim in 1985 at the La Jolla Playhouse in the first revival/revisal of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG - I was Beth.
PC: That first revisal is Sondheim's favorite version, it appears, judging from the recent Encores! presentation and new recording coming up.
MM: Yeah - it's amazing.
PC: Was that a thrilling experience to be a part of the big rewrite? It was a complete overhaul of the material with so many new songs and scenes.
MM: Oh, it was! I mean, that was what I sort of consider my big break - that's where I first met James and Steve and that's when I first auditioned for them and that's, then, when they came to know who I was. [Pause.] That was a big, big break for me in my career.
PC: Or anyone's for that matter.
MM: I think that I actually ended up getting BIG RIVER because of doing that - MERRILY was at the La Jolla Playhouse; Des McAnuff was the artistic director and had just won the Tony for BIG RIVER. Patti Cohenour was leaving BIG RIVER to do EDWIN DROOD in the Park and I took over for her as Mary Jane. It's all about those little things that end up happening that really sort of start shaping your whole career - that production of MERRILY was something I was thrilled to be a part of and I still am. It was one of my favorite experiences ever - it was an amazing production and I love that show so much. It has so much meaning to me as a young actor - working, for the first time, with James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim. You know, being taught to sing "Not A Day Goes By" by Stephen Sondheim himself? That's something I will never forget.
MM: There are so many things like that that I will never forget - things that really helped shaped the rest of my career and how I approached things as an actor and how I approached singing from an acting standpoint; which I don't think that I did so much before that. You know, when you are younger and you can sing, you don't think about what you are really doing as much - but, when you are working with Steve and James... it just kind of shifted things for me.
PC: The intention behind everything had more meaning.
MM: Yes - the intention. It was about how I had to approach everything as an actor first and a singer second.
PC: What was the best insight you received about "Not A Day Goes By" from them? It's such a tremendous song.
MM: Well, Steve actually sang it for me.
PC: What did he do?
MM: Oh, he really just kind of acted it from where he, himself, was coming from - from his gut and soul. It's an experience I can't really explain. [Pause.] It was amazing, though, to experience. It kind of shifted everything for me after I saw him do that. I will never, ever forget it - every time I sing it I still think of him and I think of what he did and what he said and how he did it. Every time.
PC: Elaine Stritch was onstage when Patti LuPone sing "Ladies Who Lunch" and you were onstage when Bernadette Peters sing "Not A Day Goes By" at the SONDHEIM! concert - what was that experience like for you to watch Bernadette do it?
MM: Oh, my God - Bernadette sings that song so well. It was such an amazing experience to be sitting up there onstage with all of those amazing women - and every one of us so different; and, every one of us singing these amazing, varied songs. I mean, when Lonny said, "Do you want to sing 'Losing My Mind'?" I said, "Are you kidding? Yes!" I love "Not A Day Goes By", but "Losing My Mind" was a gift. They are all such great songs that you can really sink your chops into - it was really fun. We did it over two nights and it was a really, really fun event to be a part of.
PC: You and your husband Jason Danieley are so perfect in your duet in the SONDHEIM! concert as well. It is so hilarious.
MM: Yeah! [Laughs.] It's a very funny song. It was great singing something that no one really knows - at least we didn't know it, really. So, yeah - it was great fun.
PC: The SONDHEIM! Concert is available instantly on Netflix, as well. Anyone can check it out.
MM: Oh, how fantastic - that's so great. I'm glad to hear that.
PC: From that spectacular gala concert to the one saluting Ahrens & Flaherty on Monday, how did you first become involved with them?
MM: Well, the way that RAGTIME happened was a sort of roundabout way that goes into a story beyond RAGTIME - I mean, when I first worked with Garth Drabinsky it was for an Andrew Lloyd Webber concert tour in Canada called MUSIC OF THE NIGHT.
PC: Was that your first show post-PASSION?
MM: Yes - it was the MUSIC OF THE NIGHT concert tour, I think. And, since I was working with Garth on that, I knew he was developing RAGTIME. After I did the concert in Canada, I opted to not do it in the United States, but he wanted me to do it here. So, we had a bit of a falling out - and he basically said he would never hire me again.
PC: A tight spot to be in if you wanted to do RAGTIME.
MM: Yeah, RAGTIME was then having their workshops and readings after that, and, from what I know now, Lynn and Steve and Terrence certainly had me on their radar and wanted me for the role, but Garth was refusing to have me be involved.
PC: How unfortunate.
MM: Yeah, but, actually I met Terrence McNally at this reading of I MARRIED AN ANGEL that I did that he hosted. I remember meeting him and he said to me, you know, "We want you for RAGTIME, but Garth is very mad at you." And, I said, "Oh, my God! I feel awful." [Laughs.] But, then, I guess he came around and he let me come in and audition and I got the part.
PC: So, that first and only RAGTIME audition was the first time you met Lynn and Stephen?
MM: Yes - that was the first time that I met Lynn and Stephen, as well as Frank Galati and Graciela. So, we worked together after all and Garth even spoke at our wedding and… now he's in jail. [Laughs.] But, that's a whole other story!
PC: You've got that right!
MM: It was just one of those things, with RAGTIME, that I sort of didn't think would ever happen because he was so mad at me, but, I guess people get over artistic differences.
PC: Fifteen years later you lampooned Lloyd Webber's sound as the Lady In The Lake in SPAMALOT - "The Song That Goes Like This".
MM: Yes, yes - you're right! [Laughs.]
PC: Why didn't you want to continue with the Lloyd Webber revue?
MM: Well, I did it for three months and toured Canada and I was done with it. I felt I was an actor and I was in a revue - I wanted to play roles. I mean, I got to sing great songs - I sang the EVITA stuff; I sang SUNSET BOULEVARD stuff; I sang "Tell Me On A Sunday". I had great songs and great William Ivey Long gowns. It was a full band onstage with us - it was a cool concert and it was beautifully done. John DeLuca and Kathleen Marshall staged it. Colm Wilkinson was in it with me, too.
PC: A great team.
MM: Yeah, it was. I just didn't want to make a nine-month commitment to touring around the United States doing it. You know, sometimes those are the decisions you make - you are like, "No, I don't do things that I don't want to so. I don't see myself going there."
PC: Your voice is perfect for some of Lloyd Webber's stuff - "Unexpected Song", especially.
MM: Oh, that's in the Love Trio that's in the Carnegie Hall MY FAVORITE BROADWAY concert - that was actually originally from the Andrew Lloyd Webber concert I did in Canada, that arrangement.
PC: You, Audra McDonald and Judy Kuhn - unbelievable.
MM: Yeah - it was so great to do that for that Leading Ladies concert. Audra sang the "Love Changes Everything" part, which was originally done by Colm - you know, because their voices are so similar and everything! [Laughs.]
PC: It worked so well, especially those songs with you three all coming together at the end.
MM: It did - David Loud did a great job with that arrangement. Great songs - "Love Changes Everything", "I Don't Know How To Love Him", "Unexpected Song". Audra and Judy were wonderful.
PC: Julie Andrews, Liza Minnelli, Linda Eder and some of the other ladies from that concert have done this column and everyone has told me it was an electric night and a fun backstage, too.
MM: Oh, my God - that really was so much fun. We were all on the same floor and sharing dressing rooms! Yes - it was really, really exciting and it was a really fun night.
PC: You have sung that trio since then, as well - it's on YouTube, thankfully.
MM: Yeah, that's right - with Raul Esparza and Carolee Carmello at one of those outdoor Broadway events. That was fun, too. I enjoy doing that trio.
PC: You have done CHILDREN & ART and WALL TO WALL SONDHEIM and some great benefits that haven't been recorded, as well - although all of WALL TO WALL was preserved.
MM: It was? I didn't know that! But, yeah - there really have been a lot of those great, unforgettable nights and I am lucky to have done some of them.
PC: Is RAGTIME the only show you have worked on with Lynn and Stephen so far - any workshops or readings of other shows, perhaps?
MM: RAGTIME is it so far, but we constantly talk about doing something else - it will happen; it will happen. I am sure it will happen. Lynn and Stephen and Terrence are all really close friends of mine, so that's one of the wonderful things I have gotten out of having worked with them and they are all just great people and I love them all so much. Jason and I actually put together this concert for Lynn and Steve for this company out in California - Broadway-By-The-Bay, I think it was. They commissioned us to do an evening. It was just so much fun - Stephen played the piano and Lynn narrated and sang a couple of songs with us.
PC: What did she sing?
MM: She sang "The Dog Song" from LUCKY STIFF - it was a blast. We all had so much fun together and we sort of were like, "We should book this," and, Lynn didn't like performing that much and she said, "No - I can't do that many performances! I don't know how you do eight shows a week - five shows is all I can ever handle doing!" [Laughs.]
PC: Who knows - maybe a MUSIC & LYRICS OF AHRENS & FLAHERTY tour someday? The possibilties are endless!
MM: Yeah, we are both so excited that we get to be a part of this big tribute to them - it's such an amazing roster of really wonderful people. It's going to be incredible.
PC: At Carnegie Hall, once again, no less! Do you still get a little nervous before you go out there, given the hallowEd Hall's history?
MM: Well, sometimes these things are extremely nerve-wracking - obviously the ones for PBS are extra nerve-wracking because you have one shot; you are literally doing it once and that's it. So, when it is filmed it puts added pressure on it. Monday night is going to be extraordinarily fun for me, though, because, first of all, I happen to be singing a song I know extremely well… [Laughs.]
PC: "Back To Before" - the one everyone is anticipating.
MM: Yes. Yes. Yes. And, secondly, I don't think I have ever sung that song in Carnegie Hall before, so that's going to really be a treat for me. And, I love Lynn and Steve so much that it is really just all about celebrating them - that's the way I like to think about it. Like I said, all of the people that will be there are basically all people that I know and they are all so wonderful, so it will be fantastic to be there supporting each other and having a great time seeing each other sing those amazing songs, too.
PC: Knowing them as you do, have you gotten to hear any of their new musicals yet - ROCKY, the Degas piece and another one they won't talk about yet?
MM: No - I haven't heard anything! But, when Lynn came to see CARRIE we were talking about the ROCKY translation going on right now - they have three different people translating the lyrics and Lynn doesn't speak German, so it's a little crazy trying to fit all the Germanic syllables into Stephen's music; I think he is having to rewrite some things to fit in more things because of the language barrier. They are having a lot of fun with it, though - I know they are both really, really excited about it.
PC: Speaking of cast albums, you have just recorded the CARRIE revival cast album, have you not?
MM: Yes, we actually just finished recording it last night.
PC: Was it a jovial atmosphere despite the recent closing?
MM: Oh, yeah. It was a great atmosphere, actually. Since Margaret doesn't do anything with the kids - except for a little of "Open Your Heart" - I went early so I could listen to them record some it. So, I saw them record "In", which was really exciting, and some other things. They had started at 9 AM and had already had a really good day. I showed up at 5 and then Molly and I did all of our stuff for the rest of the evening. Then, the very last thing we did was "When There's No One" - so, I finished up the recording, which was nice.
PC: Just as it should be.
MM: Yeah - it was really satisfying to have that full-circle experience with Stafford and Dean and Michael and Larry. To be there all together and hug and have that moment in the recording studio be our last one together was very special to me.
PC: Your subdued Margaret portrayal was a smart choice for the role - do you agree that that was the most effective way to go as opposed to the scenery-chewing many expected?
MM: You know, I think that, in the end, most people agreed with what I did - they felt for her and that really surprised them; that's what I wanted. People said to me, "Wow - I was really moved for her. I was actually crying. Even though it was horrible what she was doing, I understood where she was coming from," and, for me, that was the whole challenge of taking on the role.
PC: A fascinating portrayal of a very rich character.
MM: It was a wonderful journey and I loved the creators and Stafford and how they reshaped and rethought that material and put it up on that stage in that way. I loved the show. Molly Ranson is such a star and I adore her so much - the cast was amazing; so talented. It was a joyful, joyful experience that, unfortunately, didn't last as long as we all wanted it to, but the fact that we got to record it definitively and it will be out there now with our stamp on it makes us all extremely, extremely happy.
PC: CARRIE can live on forever, if only on disc.
MM: Yeah - and Lincoln Center archived it, so it is in the library and people can go and watch it, too. And, R&H is licensing it and companies will be able to do it across the country now - so, you know, a lot of really marvelous things came from doing this production, obviously, and CARRIE will live on now and so will this production.
PC: "You Shine" seems destined for GLEE, I think, doesn't it?
MM: Oh, yeah - I totally agree!
PC: Would you like to see a GLEE tribute to CARRIE?
MM: Oh, I would - I would! That would be so great.
PC: You, Betty Buckley and Barbara Cook have all done this column and all three of you spoke so favorably of the score to me. Despite short runs, the music is the powerful component that keeps us coming back to CARRIE, it seems.
MM: It is - some of those songs are really amazing and the show can be really powerful.
PC: Was there a specific moment in the show you enjoyed the most doing every night?
MM: I loved "And Eve Was Weak" and I loved "Evening Prayers" and I really relished my time onstage with Molly every night - she was so fantastic. And, the song "When There's No One" was a wonderful challenge to sing every night, too - you know, the emotion behind it and what it says and where the character has gone by that point and what she has decided to do. [Pause.] And, the human element really coming out - she's thinking about herself for the first time; I really loved that.
PC: It is almost unbelievable for us CARRIE fans to consider that there will actually be an official cast recording available in a few months.
MM: I know! I know! Last night, right when we were leaving the studio, we were all like, "We want it now! Right now! We can't wait!" [Laughs.]
PC: When will it be released?
MM: I think they are looking for a Fall release to kind of coordinate with school starting and everything. We are going to be doing a big sort of release thing for it, so that will be something for people to look out for more about and to look forward to, too.
PC: For sure. It is complete, correct?
MM: Yeah, the CD is the whole piece - it has dialogue and stuff, as well. It will tell the whole story and it will be a very full single CD.
PC: Was there new material written for you that did not make it into the production?
MM: No - not really. There was a scene in the reading in 2009 that was with the principal and me and Ms. Gardner, but it didn't work - it wasn't necessary. We took it out in previews. We tried to put it in in the first place because we felt like we needed to show that Margaret ventured outside in the world, but we had already established that by that point and it ended not being something we needed. Larry wrote it originally for a purpose and it served that purpose and it helped us explore the show more, but, no, there was never any new music written for me.
PC: So, have you exorcised some of your demons in the last two years between playing fanatical Margaret in CARRIE and emotionally-scarred Diana in NEXT TO NORMAL?
MM: I have exorcised so many demons, Pat… I am telling you! [Big Laugh.]
PC: It's been a few years of truly tortured souls for you.
MM: And, I played Blanche in STREETCAR up at Barrington Stage before I did Diana, by the way!
PC: Really? That's a lot of crazy.
MM: Really! Yeah, I've definitely been on the crazy route for a while now - Diana, Margaret, Blanche; but, it's good. It's good. It's fun! [Laughs.]
PC: Roles like Diana give you so much to work with - not unlike Margaret.
MM: They do - they do; they really do. I enjoy playing them all.
PC: You recently did ENRON, as well - another straight play.
PC: Would you like to do more straight plays in the future?
MM: Oh, yes - yes, yes, yes. I would love to.
PC: Was STREETCAR an enjoyable experience for you as someone known mostly for musicals? Had you ever done a Tennessee Williams drama before?
MM: I hadn't - and it was so wonderful to sink my teeth into that kind of thing! You know, those monologues are like arias - she's very musical and the way he writes is so musical.
PC: It really is.
MM: The language and the character and being able to dive into that person, saying those words, was very, very special - we had a really wonderful time doing it up there. Christopher Innvar was my Stanley and he was just fantastic.
PC: Having done Cole Porter, Sondheim, NEXT TO NORMAL and more, is RAGTIME still your most special Broadway memory so far?
MM: Well, they each have their own thing, but because of the longer creative process of RAGTIME - a year in Toronto and then coming to Broadway - that really made it so special. And, working with that team - every single one of them made it as special as they could and it showed in the final show. That whole cast and creative team was so extraordinary - every single person involved; from Lynn and Stephen and Terrence and Frank and Graciela to everyone else. I mean, in talking about GLEE - Lea Michele was the Little Girl!
MM: And Paul Dano was the Little Boy originally, up in Canada!
PC: I wasn't aware of that - he's so talented.
MM: Paul is an amazing actor - and he was amazing then, too. Lea was, too.
PC: It was an incomparable journey with RAGTIME for you, then?
MM: Oh, yeah - we all went through a lot with that show and I think it was something that just bonded us all forever. Plus, to me, that show is one of the most brilliant musicals ever written - it will live on and I am so proud to have been a part of the original production. [Pause.] It holds a really, really special place in my heart and I love when people say that they have seen it or have been a part of a production of it somewhere.
PC: It grows in popularity, year after year. We've even had a Broadway revival already!
MM: You know, actually, Molly - my Carrie - played Mother in high school.
PC: What a coincidence!
MM: Yeah, there were even girls at the stage door for CARRIE who said they were doing RAGTIME in school right now. I think that's so great!
PC: It really is - RAGTIME journeys on.
MM: I think it's such an important story that needs to be continued to be told - it's such an important lesson for communities; for everyone. It's so wonderful that it lives on and keeps being done again and again. You know, I am just really proud of my association with it.
PC: And it can be done on any budget, as the revival proved.
MM: Oh, yeah - Stafford actually did the first one like that, in London, with the chairs and all that. You know, he was Frank Galati's associate on RAGTIME, so that's where I met him originally before we did CARRIE or anything.
PC: And then Stafford re-envisioned it when he directed it himself - just like he did with the new CARRIE.
MM: Yes. Stafford is just amazing - he is, in a word, amazing.
PC: Lynn and Stephen cited you singing "Back To Before" as the definitive song performance of theirs in their career when I spoke with them, so your performance at JOURNEY ON will be a must-see moment without a doubt. We all can't wait!
MM: Oh, that's so nice of them - I love them so much. I can't wait either! [Laughs.]
PC: What is next after JOURNEY ON for you?
MM: Well, I have some theatre things in the works and Jason and I are doing concerts and I am also working on a solo concert. [Sighs.] Someday I will do a CD, too - I just have to figure out what I am going to do.
PC: We have been clamoring for one from you for so long! Make it happen already!
MM: I know! I know! I will - I promise. And, yeah - it's always, "I want to do this! No, I want to do that!" and I can never make up my mind. It's only me that's keeping me from doing it, really. [Laughs.]
PC: You are your own worst enemy.
MM: I am! Jason and I are working on our new CD right now, though, so that will probably come out long before mine does. He's much better than I am at all of that stuff, you know! [Laughs.]
PC: Hopefully you will be a part of one of the new Ahrens & Flaherty musicals coming up or perhaps even a future one! Maybe an all A&F solo album?
MM: You never know - you just never know! I would love to work with them on something else, but I am really just so happy to be a part of this great night at Carnegie Hall celebrating two people that I love very much. They are extraordinary people and extraordinary artists, as well. I am really, really, really looking forward to it.
PC: You have so many fans on BroadwayWorld - rightfully so - and this was so great today, Marin. Thank you so much.
MM: Oh, I really appreciate you all out there and I really appreciate this today, too, Pat. Thank you so much. Bye.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro