Beau Salant ‘18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
For this week’s installation of “Broadway Backstory” we’ll be taking a look at Marin Mazzie, who made her mark in the late 90’s and early 2000’s as one of Broadway’s brightest stars.
Many eventual leading men and ladies go through a phase at the beginning of their career where they play minor ensemble roles, sometimes roles that don’t even have names. For many, this phase can be gruelingly long and some never escape it. Mazzie, on the other hand, barely spent any time in this phase. When she moved to New York City after graduating from West Michigan University in 1982 with degrees in theatre and music, Mazzie was instantly swept up in the New York theatre scene.
Less than a year after hitting the Big Apple, Mazzie was cast in an off-Broadway revival of the musical Where’s Charley? in the role of Kitty and later in the off-Broadway Kander and Ebb musical revue, titled And the World Goes ‘Round. Though she did not play a major role, this production would prove critical for Mazzie’s career as it would introduce her to directors Scott Ellis and Susan Stroman, both of whom were (and still are) major forces on the theatre scene.
The next few years would see Mazzie mostly serving as a replacement in many major roles in major productions, such as the role of Rapunzel in Into the Woods and Mary Jane Wilkes in Big River. Her big break came in 1994 when she originated the role of Clara in Stephen Sondheim’s musical Passion. The performance drew Mazzie massive acclaim and brought her a Tony nomination, her first, in the category of Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She lost to a then-unknown Audra McDonald, who also received her big break that same year in Carousel.
Passion shot Mazzie to stardom and she was on a hot streak for the remainder of the decade. In 1998, she originated yet another role, this time a leading one, as Mother in Ragtime. She received another Tony Award nomination for this role, this time in the Leading Actress category, but lost to Natasha Richardson for her turn as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. That didn’t stop Mazzie, who was up for the same award just a year later for her dual role of Lilli Vanessi/Katherine a revival of Kiss Me, Kate. For this production, she earned the strongest reviews of her career to date and was widely predicted to take home the Tony, though she lost in a surprise upset to Heather Headley for her performance in the title role in Aida.
Since then, Mazzie has mostly served as a replacement for numerous Broadway productions, including for the role of Lizzie Curry in 110 in the Shade, as well as for the dynamite role of Diana Goodman in the original Broadway production of Next to Normal. Her reviews for Next to Normal were largely enthusiastic, with some critics even saying that she eclipsed the performance of the show’s original star, Alice Ripley, who won a Tony for the production.
Marin Mazzie is quite clearly one of Broadway’s finest leading ladies, with her booming voice and incredible stage presence serving as evidence of such. Critics have long praised Mazzie for her incredible vocal range, her strong belt, and her choice to play strong, authoritative characters. Mazzie is also married to fellow Broadway actor Jason Danieley, who was called “the most exquisite tenor on Broadway” by the New York Times. Danieley replaced Brian d’Arcy James in Next to Normal at the same time that Mazzie replaced Ripley, which made them a real-life married couple who portrayed a fictional married couple.
Mazzie’s future looks pretty quiet for the time being. She recently finished a run in the musical Bullets Over Broadway (which reunited her with Susan Stroman) and looks to be taking a break from the stage for a while. A fan of cabaret performance, Mazzie often performs in her own cabaret shows at various venues throughout the country, so it’s entirely possible that she’ll be giving a performance near you at some point soon.
Whatever Marin Mazzie brings us next, it is likely to be something great. She has already created a legacy as one of the fastest-risen Broadway stars, and will continue to serve that legacy for years to come with strong performance after strong performance. On behalf of everybody at Emertainment Monthly, we thank Marin Mazzie for her work and for her contributions to theatre.