Friday, September 21, 2012

cabaret review MARIN MAZZIE, 54 Below, Sept 5

Marin Mazzie at 54 Below
Marin Mazzie can do no wrong.  She has an amazing wit, a razor like connection with her audience and a clear, forceful voice that she uses to elevate any song she sings to a higher dimension.   While we've seen her perform with her husband Jason Danieley a few times this was our first time seeing her perform solo. 

Her recent cabaret concert at 54 Below was a recollection back to her teen years in the early 70's in Rockford, IL and the songs and personal stories that impacted her at that time and made her into the person she is today.   Her concert reminded me so much of Brian d'Arcy James' recent show at the same club about his growing up in the early 80's.  But while James' show was more pop/rock focused, Mazzie's was a more nostalgic youth focused one with some of the songs we now love to hate ("Midnight at the Oasis" anyone?) delivered by Mazzie in such a way that she made us fall in love with them all over again. Mazzie managed to embody each song with an intensity as well as an element of fun from the first note she sang and in doing so she had us all hooked and taking the journey with her.  The fact she didn't sing a single Broadway showtune didn't matter at all.  The stunning, beaded white cocktail dress Mazzie wore provided an added touch of heat and spark to the evening that perfectly complimented the heat and spark in her voice.

Any of us who grew up around the 70's remembers fondly the stereo in the living room and the turntable that had stacks of lp's mounted on it ready to continuously play.  Mazzie perfectly evoked the feeling of that period that transported the crowded room back to the 70's to relieve the time and music with her.  Starting off with a slowed down and sexy take on the Rosemary Clooney hit "Come On A My House,"  Mazzie talked about her parents dancing in the living room while she mimicked their moves with her Malibu Barbie and Skipper Ken dolls. As she talked about the stacked records changing automatically on the turntable she also moved from one song to another including a touching yet jazzy "Tenderly."  However, a percussion only accompanied "Begin the Beguine" was for me the clear standout of the evening.  Mazzie's voice and percussionist Larry Lelli couldn't have been more in sync for this song, it is still playing in my head weeks after seeing this show. 

The evening followed a basic chronological order as Mazzie grew up and became more interested in music that spoke to her as well as when she got her own record player to play alone in her room.  While Mazzie mentioned how she was in love with Davey Jones and longed to be "the long lost Partridge family member, Marin Partridge" as she grew up the songs that connected to her became more serious.  Her take on the Carly Simon classic "That's the Way I've Always Heard it Should Be" was heartbreaking and breathtaking all at the same time.  She also had such conviction with her delivery of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Anyone Who Had a Heart" you couldn't help but be moved.

Mazzie's teen years in Catholic School were highlighted with a very humorous story about singing at the blessing of the class rings.  The song she picked was the Barbra Streisand hit "Evergreen" even though Sister Ann Patrice (or SAP for short) censored a few of the lyrics she thought were too explicit, so Mazzie had to hum them for her classmates.   For the somewhat never ending Barry Manilow song "Weekend in New England" Mazzie managed to make us remember why we were also so drawn to that song so many years ago.

Directed by Scott Burkell, the personal stories that Mazzie told about the songs and that time in her life were both touching and humorous, with some very funny comments and moments as well.  While Mazzie has been known for more serious Broadway and Off Broadway roles, it is very clear that she would excel in a comedy.  Mazzie's humorous tales of the commitment she made to the Columbia record club as well as her realization that her purple hair brush could be used for other purposes only highlighted the sultry and comical evening.

The long lost "Marin Partridge" did get a chance to shine with her sunny, upbeat and firmly committed take on "I Think I Love You" as well as the Davey Jones inspired encore of "I'm a Believer."  Musical direction and piano accompaniment were by Joseph Thalken, with Peter Donovan on bass, Larry Saltzman on guitar and the afore mentioned Larry Lelli on percussion.  All of the musicians were given solo moments to shine throughout the evening and Mazzie's connection with each was more than just a passing one.

54 Below is the best place to see Broadway and cabaret performers break out of their musical theatre mold and show their versatility.  The sound is so amazing that when you have a performer like Mazzie with impeccable phrasing you hear every single word as if you've never heard it before.   So if Mazzie comes back to 54 Below, or a theatre near you, or if one of your favorite performers books a date at 54 Below, make sure you don't miss it.

Official 54 Below Site

clips from the show! -

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