Marin Mazzie, three-time Tony Award nominee and familiar face on Berkshire stages, dies at 57

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Marin Mazzie, a sought-after musical-theater actress whose Broadway work earned her three Tony Award nominations in six years, died Thursday at her home in Manhattan. She was 57.

Her husband, actor Jason Danieley, said the cause was ovarian cancer, a disease she had spoken about often since receiving her diagnosis in 2015.

In addition to their apartment in New York, the couple had a home in Hillsdale, N.Y.

Mazzie played Blanche in Barrington Stage Company's 2009 production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." She and Danieley performed their show, "Broadway and Beyond," at BSC's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage in 2015 and again in 2016.

"Yesterday we lost a beloved member of the BSC family — a great singer, a great Blanche DuBois, a great woman," said BSC artistic director Julianne Boyd, who directed Mazzie in "Streetcar." "We are so proud to have been part of Marin's life. She lit up the stage and lit up our lives. We were fortunate enough to not only know Marin, but Jason Danieley, her husband. Their two concerts at BSC were the most passionate, exciting events we've ever done. They were consummate performers and their love for each other shown in every song — theirs is one of the great love stories in the theater."

They were scheduled to perform "Broadway and Beyond" on June 24 at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington but the show was postponed due to Mazzie's health.

"Our hearts are heavy with the news of Marin Mazzie's passing," Mahaiwe officials said in an e-mail statement. "Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Jason, their families and our fellow audience members who delighted in her lovely spirit and beautiful talents."

The two last appeared at the Mahaiwe on July 31, 2011 in "He Said/She Said," a revue that used songs from Broadway and the Great American Songbook to chart the course of their romance. "Mazzie and Danieley, who purchased a home in nearby Columbia County (N.Y.) earlier this year, repeatedly expressed their delight in discovering the Mahaiwe and finally being able to mount its stage," wrote the late Richard Houdek in his Berkshire Eagle review. "These two neighbors are welcome to knock on the door again, sooner rather than later."

Mazzie's impressive Broadway career spanned three decades, beginning with her debut as a replacement player in the original production of "Big River" in 1985. Her breakout role was as Clara in "Passion," the 1994 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, for which she was nominated for a Tony as best featured actress in a musical. (The show itself was named best musical.)

Her next two Broadway appearances also brought her Tony nominations, both for best actress in a musical. One, in 1998, was for her performance as the stifled Mother in "Ragtime." The other, in 2000, was for a role that was in some ways the polar opposite of Mother: the female lead in the 1999 revival of "Kiss Me, Kate," the musical drawn from Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" and featuring play-within-a-play warfare between the two stars.

Ben Brantley, in a glowing review in The New York Times, found Mazzie's versatility in the handling of her musical numbers especially noteworthy.

Mazzie continued to perform after her cancer diagnosis, appearing most recently on Broadway in 2016 in "The King and I" as a replacement for Kelli O'Hara in the role of Anna.

She also sang on concert stages and in cabarets all over the country. She and her husband (who is now appearing on Broadway in "Pretty Woman") often performed together, creating two-handers from the American songbook. They were to unveil a new one, "Heart to Heart," at the nightclub Feinstein's/54 Below in Manhattan in mid-June, but had to cancel it because of Mazzie's health.

Marin Joy Mazzie (pronounced MARE-in MAY-zee) was born on Oct. 9, 1960, in Rockford, Ill. Her father, John, ran a television station, and he and her mother, Donna, were devotees of musical theater, a passion reflected in their record collection.

"I just glommed onto the cast albums," Mazzie told The Associated Press in 1998. "I would play the records in my bedroom and act out all the characters."

She began taking singing lessons at 12. Then her family moved to Kalamazoo, Mich., where she attended Western Michigan University, graduating in 1982 with a minor in music and a major in theater. In 2003, she and another alumna of the university, actress Barbara Marineau, teamed up for a pair of concerts there, proceeds from which were used to create a music theater performance scholarship that is now awarded in their names.

From 1980 to 1982, Mazzie was also a "Barnie," working at the Barn, a famed summer theater in Kalamazoo. It was a fast-paced training ground that mounted a new show every couple of weeks, the actors performing in one while rehearsing the next. She earned her Actors Equity card there, and she returned several times in later years as a guest artist.

With the card and the college degree, Mazzie moved to New York, following a dream that was somewhat under-informed.

"I always wanted to move to New York and be on Broadway even before I had really been here," Mazzie said years later. "I didn't know what either of those things meant, but that's what I wanted."

She soon landed a dinner-theater job in Westchester County, New York, in the chorus of "Barnum." In 1984, she was cast in a touring version of "Doonesbury," the musical based on Garry Trudeau's comic strip, which had been tepidly received on Broadway in 1983. That landed her in California, where, at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, Sondheim was reworking another musical that had failed on Broadway, with Lapine directing.

"I first met Marin when she was 24 and came in to audition for a production of `Merrily We Roll Along' at La Jolla Playhouse," Lapine recalled in an email interview Thursday. "She seemed very young and very unsophisticated. She sang `Not a Day Goes By' with such force and beauty that Sondheim and I hired her on the spot to play Beth.

"Years later she came in to audition for Clara in `Passion.' We were stunned when she walked into the room. Suddenly Marin had matured into this gorgeous, sexy woman. She sang the first song from the show, and again, we hired her on the spot."

Mazzie viewed her role in "Merrily" as a turning point.

"That was a big, big break for me in my career," she told BroadwayWorld.com. "Being taught to sing `Not a Day Goes By' by Stephen Sondheim himself? That's something I will never forget."

Back in New York, the connection paid off as Mazzie became a replacement player in "Into the Woods," the Sondheim-Lapine hit. She then received a starring role in "Passion" alongside Donna Murphy and Jere Shea.

"Passion" opened with Mazzie and Shea naked in bed singing a duet, a scene that left some theatergoers wondering where the body microphones and battery-pack transmitters were. (Answer, according to a Times theater column: The microphones were in the wigs, as was Mazzie's pack; Shea's pack was in a pillow.)

Mazzie's other Broadway credits included the short-lived play "Enron" (2010) and the Woody Allen musical "Bullets Over Broadway" (2014). One of her most rewarding Broadway experiences, she said, came in 2010, when she and her husband took over for Alice Ripley and Brian d'Arcy James as a couple struggling with her manic depression in "Next to Normal," which had opened the year before.

Mazzie also worked extensively off-Broadway and in regional theaters. (She met her future husband when they were both in a 1996 production of Charles L. Mee Jr.'s "The Trojan Women: A Love Story" on the Lower East Side.)

In 2008, she sang with the New York Philharmonic in its production of "Camelot" at Avery Fisher Hall.

"Ms. Mazzie's singing was luminous," Anthony Tommasini wrote in his review in The Times, "and she makes a lovely Guenevere. ... "

She was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame last year.

Besides her husband, whom she married in 1997, Mazzie is survived by her mother and a brother, Mark.

In May 2015, Mazzie was in an "Encores!" presentation of the musical "Zorba!" at New York City Center. The day it opened was the day she received her cancer diagnosis. She went on anyway.

"How ironic that I was singing: `Life is what you do while you're waiting to die. Life is how time goes by,'" she told The Times that year, quoting a lyric from the show.

In "The King and I" in 2016, Mazzie played the teacher who comes to Siam to tutor the king's children. She viewed the appearance as a chance to increase awareness about ovarian cancer and cancer-related gene testing.

"Hopefully I can help somebody," she told Playbill. "That was really important, and that ties into Anna, too. How she goes to this place to help people and educate them."

Additional material contributed by Berkshire Eagle arts editor and theater writer/critic, Jeffrey Borak


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