An Interview with Broadway's Jason Danieley & Marin Mazzie
They play together and stay together on stage and off. This lovely, lively couple have made their mark as one of the few husband and wife Broadway performers and they are having the time of their lives!
Pati Buehler: While there are several couples that work in the entertainment business together as a team, few today are husband and wife performers onstage together...
Marin Mazzie: That's true, we are really fortunate to get to work together a lot and some of that is due to luck and some of that is because we have consciously made the choice to do that.
Jason Danieley: We definitely planned it this way, because there are so many couples in the business that are constantly apart, in different regions or coasts. We make it a point so that if there isn't work for us, we generate our own plans to work in symphonic settings or in cabaret settings in different venues around the country.
PB: Where and when did you meet?
MM: We met in a show off-Broadway called The Trojan Women: A Love Story which was produced in 1996 by a theater company called En Garde Arts that did shows all around New York. This particular show was at the East River Park Amiptheater. Tina Landau directed this two act show where we found ourselves playing opposite one another in the second act, and it was love at first sight. I think we decided to be together for the rest of our lives in about 5 days.
JD: (laughing) It was pretty quick! It was a 4 week run and it took place in an outside theater. Actually, Act One was played indoors and Act Two outdoors. Fortunate for us that summer, it rained a lot and the show was cancelled a few nights. There was a hot tub built in the middle of the set so we got to run our lines in a hot tub. That was sort of a bonding for us. (Both laughing).
MM: What really got us together was in rehearsal when I kissed Jason. I had a crush on him, so I really laid one on him, and then he couldn't remember his line!
PB: What a great story! What about working together, collaborating on new projects, how does that work for you?
MM: I think it's great. We did 110 in the Shade together at the Pasadena Playhouse and although we're not exactly similar in style I think we compliment each and understand each other. That relationship in a working situation saves a lot of time and makes it so comfortable for us.
JS: Along those same lines, we have a sort of shorthand between us. We worked together in Brigadoon and we just cut to the chase because we know all nuances between us. Working with someone you don't know puts you in a position to have to use politeness to get to what you ultimately want to say. But, we can just say " I don't like that" or "no, let's try this" without hurting each others feelings.
MM: This trust level is really high...
JS: Sometimes as an actor you have to create different scenarios in your mind to get to a certain emotion, say if you have to cry or be ecstatic with joy, this can be a challenge. When you are playing opposite your real life partner though saying "you can't live without her" you don't have to do all the tricks of the trade emotionally.
MM: I had never been involved with Brigadoon, so didn't really know the show. When Fiona leaves Tommy, I could barely say the lines and I was utterly sobbing. The thought of being apart forever, well I was just a mess. (laughing)
JD: I was squeezing the heck out of her hand, thinking "you've got to get through this." (laughing).
PB: That is very special, please tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you go to school and get the acting bug?
MM: My desire to perform hit me when I was really little. I was acting out parts, putting on shows, making people do things they didn't want to do. You know, the usual (laughing)! I starting taking voice lessons at 12, and grew up in Rockford, Illinois. I went to a great high school that put a lot of money into the Arts. I went to high school with Joe Mantello and Bob Greenblatt, president of Showtime and Gary Griffin, who's directing A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Jason's show, is also from my hometown. It was an interesting group of people.
JD: I think there was something in the water over there!
MM: I went to school at Kalamazoo Michigan Western University and worked summer stock at the Barn Theater which still exists in about it's 60th year. Summer stock is a great training ground, and from there I moved to the city. We were involved with the sets, the costumes,everything, and we worked literally almost 24 hours a day when we were in the shows so we learned a lot.
JS: I started singing at the age of 4 and because my dad was, I was singing in his church. I did a lot of singing in choirs, high school musicals.
I landed my first professional job at 15 at Six Flags with a barbershop quartet, and we sang to little old ladies on park benches. I did two more years at Miss Kitty's Saloon, you know the song and dance thing. It truly is a great training ground, eight shows a day, 5 days a week. You really find out a lot about yourself as a performer. I went to the University of Missouri in Kansas City. I wanted to sing concerts with symphonies, and I actually got more work singing so I didn't finish school. I kind of went to the school of hard knocks doing the theme parks, dinner theater and then moved to New York when I was 20. Floyd Collins was dropped in my lap at the age of 23. That relationship with Tina Landau lasted quite a while because she directed about six of the shows I was in and she directed the show where I met Marin, so she has a special place in our hearts.
The break with Tina was definitely an artistically fulfilling venture. We did the world premier of Floyd Collins with the American Music Theater group, which is now the Prince Music theater in Philadelphia and from that came Candide with Hall Prince which was really the break that came from all of this as well.
MM: My first break was in 1985 with Merrily We Roll Along at the LaJolla Playhouse which was the first time I worked with Stephen Sonheim and James Lapine. It was a great cast and I was very young. From that I went on to Big River, Into the Woods and eventually Passion. I think meeting Stephen and James was where I would say I got my big break.
PB: Are there any ideal roles you would like to play either individually or opposite one another?
MM: There are so many great roles to play, but I am one for wanting more things to be written. Certainly there are roles I would love to play but I think I am at the interim, meaning I am a little too old to play some of them. I am still hoping for a great original role.
JD: I think that's where both of our passions lay, doing new material and encouraging new composers and producers to get new material out there.
MM: There are things on Broadway that are sort of big and flashy, and these days there are a lot of shows based on nothing but pop songs.
JD: They are entertainment, but I would hope that there will eventually be a balance of roles that are challenging to the audience's musical ear as well as their intellectual ability to keep up with a story that's a little more complex.
MM: I also miss plays, because we don't have many plays on Broadway anymore.
PB: Any future projects you'd like to share with us?
MM: We're both spending more time in in Los Angeles, mainly because there's not that much here that we're interested in. I have a recurring role on TV called Still Standing. We are out there looking for TV and film work, because it's a whole new form of work and not as difficult as doing eight shows a week.
JD: We're also putting together our first CD, which is basically a recording of our Cabaret Act that we did for Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series a few years back. It's called "Opposite You," and we're looking at April or early May to get that done.
MM: I'm doing a solo concert that I put together, and I'm pretty excited about that. We're both looking forward to our upcoming concerts and to working together for a very long time.
Jason Danieley & Marin Mazzie will appear with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops presentation of "Get Happy" a concert based on the Harold Arlen songbook. This concert will open at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on February 16th and run through February 20th.