BWW Reviews: Broadway Couple Mazzie & Danieley Offer HE SAID/SHE SAID Cabaret
Armed with twice the vocal power and awash with plenty of real, fiery chemistry, Broadway vets -- and real-life married couple -- Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley's romantically-themed cabaret showcase titled He Said/She Said played to packed, dimly-lit audiences at the intimate Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa over Valentine's Day Weekend, February 14 - 16. The touring concert act -- which also makes stops in San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Newark -- was cheekily explained as the couple's true "crazy/cool" love story told via specially-selected tunes that span classic Broadway musicals and standards from the Great American Songbook.
Joined by hard-working musical director Joseph Thalken on piano (who also did many of the show's swell new arrangements), the couple took equal solo turns and also joined in duets for their mostly swinging 90-minute set that was filled with toe-tapping ditties, familiar anthems, and even a few stirring torch songs. But, unlike other cabaret showcases that have visited the center in past years, Mazzie and Danieley offered very minimal speeches and banter between songs, allowing the songs themselves to tell their story. But, of course, they did fill in a few of the gaps here and there.
What we did learn first-hand is that the couple met by chance as cast members of the off-Broadway musical THE TROJAN WOMEN: A LOVE STORY. Much like many classic backstage stories as old as time, the show's original lead actress was suddenly fired, giving Mazzie the opportunity to step up from the ensemble and learn the larger role within 24 hours.
"Fate stepped in," Danieley explained, forcing the two to play opposite each other as lovers. "Then... she kissed me!" Danieley bellowed with a palpable glee. And, obviously, they've been kissing ever since.
Mazzie later admitted that the two "fell in love instantly" and had hoped that their off-Broadway show (which played outdoors) would get rained out, allowing them to stay cozy indoors to continue their romantic and lustful new relationship. And, guess what? Nature obliged.
Danieley, for his part, countered with a hopeful, but alarmingly self-deprecating "If I Only Had A Brain" from The Wizard of Oz. You see, according to him at the time, if he had one, "then I could get get the girl!" Awww. Cute!But first, the show opened with songs of heartache and longing -- because, you know, the two hadn't met yet. The pair started their cabaret showcase with a playful duet of Mercer's "Something's Gotta Give," followed by Mazzie's samba-flavored version of "Cockeyed Optimist" from SOUTH PACIFIC. The three-time Tony Award nominee noted that her take on the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein ballad required her to "twist it, tug it, turn it inside-out... because that's what love does to you." Well, at least, her previous beaus did.
He Said/She Said soon embarked on one of several tonal detours to allow both accomplished stage performers to really showcase their incredible belting and acting skills throughout the evening -- which, of course, followed the mood shifts of their own initial courtship. First, both expressed their hope to find a love companion. Mazzie's beautifully-portrayed longing in the Ellington/Strayhorn ballad "Something To Live For" (one of my favorite songs of all time, coincidentally) is marvelously done, while Danieley responded with an excellent rendition of the Gershwins' classic "Someone To Watch Over Me."
Then, poof! The two meet and Danieley instantly turned into a giddy lover boy ("I've Got The World On A String") while his new lover became happy, yet understandably cautious (via a mash-up of "They Didn't Believe In Me" and "Keeping Out Of Mischief"). Soon the pair's newfound bliss hit a sudden snag: In their most personal revelation during the entire set, the pair admitted that after spending their rained-out days in Mazzie's apartment (and I think you can figure out the whats and the whys), she surprised him by saying, out of nowhere... "Don't freak out... but I gotta go see my shrink!" Ha! Didn't see that one coming!
Thus began a section of songs that illustrated the new couple's uneasiness and trepidation. After a manic "Too Close For Comfort" duet, Mazzie dashed over to her therapist's office to sing Cole Porter's amusing "The Physician" followed by her showstopping, superb rendition of "Cry Me A River" -- the latter easily worth the price of a ticket alone. Later, her rich, gorgeous vocals on Charlie Chaplin's oft-saccharine "Smile" gave it a haunting beauty as does the Rodgers and Hart standard "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."
Meanwhile, left back in Mazzie's apartment, Danieley had a "big case of WTF" coursing through his brain as he tried to assess the situation. He started his analysis with Porter's "It's Bad For Me," then continuing on with a defiant "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do," a dramatic rendering of Arlen and Mercer's "One For My Baby," and, finally, to Lerner and Lane's "Come Back To Me" (The pair also duet on an intriguingly arranged version of Arlen and Mercer's "Blues In The Night").
But after Mazzie's therapist asked "are you crazy?" (wow, great shrink)... she ran back to the apartment and, thankfully, Danieley was still there. Confused, but there.
Sixteen years of blissful marriage have passed (which they humorously noted were "like 60 in showbiz years") prompting rousing, adorable finale duets on the Gershwins' "Our Love Is Here To Stay" and a mash-up of "Love Me Or Leave Me" and "What Is This Thing Called Love."
Overall, Mazzie and Danieley's take on their own personal love story -- well-timed for Valentine's week -- was wonderfully arranged but was also acceptably vague in the specific details, allowing for an air of mystery in their otherwise public relationship (their smooches were certainly scripted into the flow of the show, but were nonetheless authentic and genuine). Though I wish we got more insider-y dish from their work on the stage (both as a couple and in individual roles), their song selections had a specific theme to stick to, which I completely appreciated and, well, enjoyed immensely.
It certainly helped that both seasoned performers matched and complimented each other well, something they clearly have honed well together (their last major stage collaboration was starring opposite each other on Broadway in NEXT TO NORMAL). But one couldn't help but notice that, all night, as the couple traded positions on the stage in favor of the other, each spouse almost appeared to be one-upping the other with each turn at the mic. It's likely unintentional, of course, but it made for an exciting unofficial battle of vocal powerhouses, if you will, which mirrored their show's title.
While both performers have unique individual gifts that set them apart as individual song stylists (she's a multi-octave diva extraordinaire with a flair for drama; he's an old-school matinee crooner with a comic lean), they do share a wonderful musical trait: both love giving it their all with their Big Giant Money Notes to theatrically punctuate the grandiose endings of their chosen song selections. Either with a flourish or a stirring high note that can reach the rafters, both singers know how to end a dang song (Just listen, for example, to Mazzie's impactful vocal work on "Back To Before" from her role in the groundbreaking musical RAGTIME, and you'll know what I mean).
But together, along with their expertly curated set list of beguiling songs, Mazzie and Danieley allowed their adorkably charming double-bill to make us all swoon with delight. Yes, even the jaded single people in the audience.
Photos by Mike Sharkey, courtesy of SCFTA.
Follow this reviewer on Twitter: @cre8iveMLQ
HE SAID/SHE SAID starring Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley will be performed February 17 at the Bay Area Cabaret in San Francisco, CA followed by stops at the Annenberg Theatre at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, CA on February 23, and at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ on March 23.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.SCFTA.org.