Mazzie and Danieley toast New Year with SF Symphony

Broadway’s first couple, Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley, had a pretty good 2008.

He had a long run in the final Kander and Ebb musical, Curtains, and she was the Lady of the Lake in Monty Python’s Spamalot. They also criss-crossed the country doing concerts together, and he recently released his album Jason Danieley and the Frontier Heroes.

The big news this year, though, according to Mazzie: “We bought a country house!”

The couple, which now splits time between Manhattan and the new country home in the Berkshires, will end the year in San Francisco with a pair of New Year’s concerts with the San Francisco Symphony – one New Year’s Eve and one New Year’s Day.

Mazzie and Danieley head into the New Year with projects aplenty, even though Broadway seems to be dimming because of the disastrous economy.

They’ll tour Florida with the Boston Pops Orchestra, perform the Kennedy Center in February and they’ll do a joint gig at Feinstein’s in March. So far, though, no Broadway shows lined up.

“In this economy, shows’ advances are not good and producers are cutting their losses and gearing up for, hopefully, a spring season that will bring some stuff in,” Mazzie says. “I have such great confidence in our new president. I’m beyond joyous about that. I know it’s going to be tough going with this economy, but he’ll be able to turn it around and it will affect everybody. It’s all cyclical. People are still going to go see hit shows. People still want entertainment. I know Broadway is going to suffer, but I’m not all doom and gloom.”

Danieley adds that in a recession, people still value entertainment.

“They just find less expensive forms of entertainment,” he says. “They want to get away from CNN and MSNBC and experience some Gershwin or something of substance. This country went through a depression, and look what the music of that time did for them. It put salve on the wounds of economic scraped knees.”

In their concerts with the SF Symphony, Mazzie and Danieley will perform material from their CD, Opposite You, which is a mix of standards and show tunes. He’ll debut a new arrangement of one of is songs from “Curtains,” “I Miss the Music,” and she’ll incorporate some tunes from her cabaret show, Yes! It’s Today! a revue of songs by Jerry Herman and Kander and Ebb.

Ask the couple what they listen to at home, and you get a steady stream of overlapping names: k.d. lang, Annie Lennox, Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss, Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Rufus Wainwright and James Taylor.

“What I love about Rufus,” Danieley says, “is that he combines his own compositions with covers and standards and makes them his own. In that similar style, we like to approach music we love, take in all that’s going on with the sound of music today, and kind of brush them off and make them a little more contemporary, a little more vital.”

That’s certainly what Danieley has done with his album, Jason Danieley and the Frontier Heroes, a collection of country, folk, Americana sounds that borrow heavily from his childhood in St. Louis, where he played music with his family in their basement.

“My grandma played piano, my mom played the organ, my grandpa played washtub bass,” Danieley says. “We really had a back porch Americana sound. These are my roots and I just really wanted to share this music.”

The album is dedicated to Danieley’s grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. In her memory, 20 percent of the profit from each CD goes to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Making music, whether it’s from Broadway, pop, the past or the present, never ceases to enthrall Mazzie and Danieley, even though they’ve been doing it for many years – the last 10 as man and wife.

“I love that wherever you listen to music, whether in a symphony hall or at the Blue Note listening to Jane Monheit, the people in the room are having these experiences that get their creative juices flowing and sends them out into the world with a changed outlook. That’s what I love about live performance – it’s a shared experience, and this thing that is created – music – is something we all fee. It is a gift to be part of it.”


The San Francisco Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Gala featuring Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley is at 9 p.m. Dec. 31 at Davies Symphony Hall. Event includes party favors, complimentary champagne, savories and desserts following the concert as well as dancing in the lobby and a midnight cascade of balloons. Tickets are $110-$180.

The New Year’s Day Cabaret Concert is at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20-$90

Call 415-864-6000 or visit

`Camelot’ glimmers on PBS

Set those DVRs.

I guess KQED isn’t too concerned with the “live” part of “Live from Lincoln Center.” The concert production of Camelot that will air at noon this Sunday (May 12) was actually filmed on Thursday, May 8. But who doesn’t love show tunes on a Sunday afternoon? Consider it a Broadway brunch.

Hard to complain, though, when we get to hear the Lerner and Loewe score performed by the New York Philharmonic, Gabriel Byrne (King Arthur), Marin Mazzie (Guenevere) and Nathan Gunn (Lancelot).

Here’s the blurb from KQED:

Live From Lincoln Center presents the New York Philharmonic performing a semi-staged version of the Lerner & Loewe classic Camelot. It’s one of the most endearing musicals of all time telling the unforgettable tale of the legendary King Arthur, whose idealized kingdom meets a tragic end, as well as the wake of the disastrous affair between Sir Lancelot, the King’s most trusted knight, and Guinevere, his beautiful Queen. The program features such classic songs as “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Lusty Month of May,” and “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight.”

Channels and Airdates
KQED Channel 9
Sunday, May 11, 2008 — 12:00 p.m.

Monday, May 12, 2008 — 9:00 p.m.

And here’s the official “Live from Lincoln Center” web site with more info:

Now, for your entertainment, here’s a clip of original Camelot co-stars Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet performing a medley from Porgy and Bess on “The Julie Andrews Hour.” God, I miss variety shows. Strange and cheesy, yes, but they sound incredible!

An Ahrens & Flaherty weekend

Broadway may have been pretty quiet last Saturday night (what with the stagehands strike and all), but the Broadway show tunes were ringing sweetly through the Bay Area.

More specifically the show tunes of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty were in the air on both sides of the Bay.

In Berkeley, the newly formed Berkeley Playhouse opened its inaugural production, Ahrens and Flaherty’s Seussical, the much-revised Broadway flop that attempted to find music in the stories of Dr. Seuss.

The Berkeley Playhouse goal is to create high-quality, professional theater that appeals to all ages, and artistic director Elizabeth McKoy and director Kimberly Dooley have succeeded mightily in meeting that goal.

Performed in the Ashby Stage, Seussical features a fantastic cast of professionals, non-professionals, adults and kids – which is a wonderful thing to see.

The show blends pieces of “Horton Hears a Who,” “The Cat in the Hat,’’ “Horton Hatches the Egg,’’ “McElligot’s Pool,’’ “The One Feathre Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz,’’ “The Butter Battle Book’’ and “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!’’ to name a few. And the mish-mash nature of the musical might have seemed scattershot in a big, slick, overly produced Broadway show. But within the confines of the Ashby Stage, it all seems pretty agreeable and often quite charming.

The heart of the show is Horton the Elephant, played by Brian Herndon, whose loyalty to the invisible Whos and to the egg he’s trying to hatch is very nearly heartbreaking. Herndon is terrific, as is Gail Wilson as Jojo (alternating in the role with Madeleine Roberts), the little boy who thinks extraordinary thinks (Jojo’s “It’s Possible” is a show highlight).

Another pillar of the large cast is Rebecca Pingree as Gertrude, the bird with two distinguishing features: her one-feather tail and her giant crush on Horton.

Dooley’s vibrant production isn’t cutesy or twee – it’s energetic and straightforward and utterly delightful. Her choreography is lively but not too involved, and on the technical side of things, Lisa Lutkenhouse’s costumes are enchanting (especially the polka dots for the Whos).

Music director Tal Ariel (also the keyboards maestro) and his three-piece band perform the Ahrens-Flaherty score beautifully, giving it some welcome urban edge.

The overall solidity of the production, which blends the charm and enthusiasm of community theater with the dependability and strength of professional theater makes Seussical a promising debut from Berkeley Playhouse and bodes well for future family-friendly productions.

(Seussical continues through Dec. 2. Visit for information.)

Over at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center Ahrens and Flaherty themselves were singing songs from Seussical (“Green Eggs and Ham” and “It’s Possible”), along with songs culled from their nearly 25 years of writing musicals together.

Ahrens & Flaherty: Words & Music, a special presentation of Broadway by the Bay was a short-run revue featuring the composers playing (Flaherty), talking (mostly Ahrens) and singing (again, mostly Ahrens) along with some tremendous vocal assists from their friends Marin Mazzie and Jason Daniely – the “golden couple of Broadway.”

Mazzie, taking a break from being the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot, and Daniely, taking a break from Curtains, brought some Broadway razzle dazzle and two gorgeous – and I do mean gorgeous – voices to the stage.

Picking highlights from the 90-minute show, which always felt real and unforced (unlike so many revues), is difficult. Of course Mazzie singing two of her songs from Ragtime, “Goodbye My Love” and “Back to Before,” was electrifying. She has a set of pipes that elicit the chills and tears and thrills that great show tunes should elicit.

Daniely’s “Streets of Dublin” from A Man of No Importance was equally exciting, and the composers were rather adorable on “The Show Biz,” a number cut from Ragtime.

The only show not represented in the revue is Dessa Rose, but that’s a minor complaint in the face of such gorgeous songs as “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past,” both from the animated film Anastasia, or the sexy “Mama Will Provide” from Once on This Island.

Flaherty’s bravura performance of the title song from Ragtime brought down the house, and though the evening had its share of lovely surprises – cute comedy numbers from Lucky Stiff, the first Ahrens and Flaherty show, and intriguing tastes (“Opposite You,” “I Was Here”) of The Glorious Ones, the latest Ahrens and Flaherty musical, which opened last week – the best of all was from a show that isn’t even finished yet.

The song is “Silent,” and it’s from a work in progress called Legacy based on photographs Ahrens’s father took of New York. The song is inspired by a willow tree in Central Park, and it ends up being about aging and being present and part of a beautiful world. In a word, it’s spectacular. Mazzie sang it while sitting on the piano bench next to Flaherty, and it couldn’t have been more moving. This is a song that will get to people for decades.

But that’s the thing about Ahrens and Flaherty, something that became even more apparent over the course of Words & Music: these are songwriters who challenge themselves to write new and different things each time out, and succeed because they do it with such tremendous heart, integrity and intelligence. Sure isn’t enough of that on Broadway.

Visit the official Ahrens & Flaherty Web site at

Stephen Flaherty sings!

Sometimes you do everything you can do to be an organized person. Then the universe has other plans.

Take, for instance, Stephen Flaherty, the composer behind such Broadway musicals as Ragtime, Once on This Island and Seussical the Musical.

He and his writing partner, Lynn Ahrens, made plans about two years ago to create and appear in a short-run revue of their work for San Mateo’s Broadway by the Bay. Executive director Greg Phillips had the great idea to bring the composers out west, and he proposed dates far in the future: Nov. 8 through 11, 2007.

Well, that day has arrived, and wouldn’t you know it? Ahrens and Flaherty opened a new musical at New York’s Lincoln Center only three nights ago. The Glorious Ones, about an itinerant Italian acting troupe, received some lovely reviews, and though they could be forgiven for canceling because of calendar clashes, Ahrens and Flaherty were on a plane Wednesday with the plan of spending today in technical rehearsals and opening tonight.

Ahrens & Flaherty: Words & Music runs through Sunday at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center and features the composers discussing their work as well as Broadway performers (and husband-and-wife duo) Marin Mazzie (taking a break from Spamalot) and Jason Daniely (taking a break from Curtains) offering their golden pipes to sing the duo’s songs. Flaherty will also be the evening’s accompanist.

On the phone from his New York home before heading west, Flaherty, 47, says he remembers early in his career when he would accompany singers.

“Since we’ve been rehearsing the show, I kind of forgot how much work it is to play for singers — you have to work your whole body. It’s fun and challenging,” he says.

The biggest challenge of all, though, has been deciding what to perform in the 90-minute show. In addition to the Ahrens-Flaherty hits, there have also been the non-hits with glorious scores: A Man of No Importance and Dessa Rose chief among them.

“Of course there are so many songs we’ve written that we love,” Flaherty says. “We’re the parents of those songs, and though we don’t want to play favorites, you’ve got 90 minutes. You have to make difficult choices.”

Flaherty says all the shows will be represented, including the new one, which features what he describes as “my most European score yet — it’s very romantic and lyrical with elements of down-and-dirty, rough-hewn humor.”

Because this is the first time he and Ahrens have done anything like this, Flaherty says the song list may change throughout the five performances.

One song that may pop up is “Something Beautiful” from a work-in-progress called Legacy. Another new one, “Anything I Got,” may also pop up in San Mateo before it lands in a revival of the duo’s My Favorite Year.

That’s what you get from a duo that has been working together for nearly 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down: a mix of old and new.

“This has been really emotional,” Flaherty says. “I met Lynn in the first month I moved to New York, and at the time, I was writing both music and lyrics. But then within six months of meeting Lynn, we were writing together.”

Poring over their songbook, Flaherty says each song is a distinct representation of who he and Ahrens were at the time.

“I look at a song from one of our first projects, Lucky Stiff, and think it just sounds like 1988,” Flaherty says. “Then I hear some of the `Ragtime’ songs and think about how we had to write four songs as an audition for the producer. That was our big break. I knew we could write that score, and that audition process was terrific and led us in a whole different direction.”

The follow-up to Ragtime was Seussical, a musical mash-up of Dr. Seuss stories. Flaherty says the sweet, family friendly show was a direct reaction to the serious tone of Ragtime.

“In Ragtime, our leading man got shot and killed every night,” he says. “We wanted to return to our silly roots.”

A Man of No Importance, which is set in Dublin, is also something of a reaction to Ragtime.

“I had a running joke while working on Ragtime that every time I wrote a song for an Irish character, the song got cut,” Flaherty says. “I started thinking maybe I should do something Irish-themed.”

Of course the Broadway stars will be singing — you can pretty much bet Mazzie will reprise the stirring “Back to Before,” which she introduced in Ragtime — but the composers will also be chiming in.

“Lynn will sing more than I will — she sings better than I do,” Flaherty says. “The whole point of the evening is to feel casual. It’s not a concert so much as a show about writing songs. It’s really about what it would be like if you were in my or Lynn’s living room while we’re creating songs.”

Ahrens & Flaherty: Words & Music is at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday (Nov. 8 & 9); 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 10); 2 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 11) at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware St., San Mateo. Tickets are $17-$42. Call 650-579-5565 or visit

Crazy for Mazzie

First, to clarify a few things: in another era, Marin Mazzie would be the biggest kind of Broadway star (think Ethel Merman or Carol Channing) and composers would be falling all over themselves to write shows for a singing actress who can do everything from broad comedy to heart-wrenching drama, all the while hitting the most glorious notes imaginable..

Another clarification: her first name is not pronounced like the county north of the Golden Gate Bridge. It rhymes with Sharon. And her last name rhymes with hazy.

So why isn’t Marin Mazzie (you said it correctly that time, good job) a monumental star? The simple answer is that Broadway doesn’t create those kinds of stars anymore. In the world of contemporary Broadway, Mazzie is among the best of the best. She sang naked in Sondheim’s Passion, hated men with glorious vehemence in Kiss Me Kate and heralded the dawn of a new age in Ragtime.

Currently, Mazzie is getting big laughs as the Lady of the Lake in Monty Python’s Spamalot on Broadway, but she’s taking a break to do her cabaret act at San Francisco’s Empire Plush Room June 12-17.

She was supposed to share the bill with her husband of nearly 10 years, the singing actor Jason Danieley (The Full Monty, Candide), but he’s in the new Broadway musical Curtains, and what with all the Tony Awards hullabaloo, he couldn’t get away.

So we get Mazzie on her own, and it just so happens she had an already prepared cabaret act waiting in the wings.

“I actually created this show for the Osher Jewish Community Center in Marin,” Mazzie says on the phone from her New York home. “I think that was about three years ago. David Loud, my musical director, and I needed to put something together, and we looked for music we love and can learn quickly.”

So what they did was create Yes, It’s Today, a collection of songs by Hello, Dolly! legend Jerry Herman and Cabaret and Chicago songwriting duo John Kander and Fred Ebb.

“I’ve worked with all three of them, and this is my tribute to them,” Mazzie says. “I’ve loved all of them, and all their music my whole life. It’s a really entertaining evening with lots of hits and stuff you might not know.”

Herman’s lightness is played off of Kander and Ebb’s darkness in intriguing pairings such as “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret with “Before the Parade Passes By” from Dolly or “Time Heals Everything” from`Mack and Mabel with “Isn’t This Better,” a Kander and Ebb song written for the movie Funny Lady.

If you saw the Kander and Ebb revue And the World Goes Round at the Curran Theatre in 1992, you saw Mazzie in the cast along with Karen Ziemba (who’s now partnered with Mazzie’s husband in Curtains).

“That was one of the first times I’d ever really been in San Francisco,” Mazzie recalls. “We were there for a month, and I just fell in love with the city. I remember it being a wonderful experience, with great audiences. On New Year’s Eve, we took over a piano bar, and our pianist, Jim Moore, played, and we sang show tunes until 4 in the morning. Those were the days when I could do that sort of thing.”

Mazzie had such a wild run on Broadway, with show after show after show, that she decided to step away from the eight-show-a-week grind. She was gone for about three years and spent a good deal of time in Los Angeles pursuing television work.

“I relished that time off,” she says. “The whole TV thing was new to me, and I actually enjoyed living in L.A. The business is completely different and the lifestyle is completely different. In New York City alone, whatever you do, it takes energy just to walk outside. In L.A., it’s sunny, you get in the car, and you’re in your own little pod.”

But when Mazzie came back to New York, and especially after taking over Lady of the Lake in Spamalot last September, she realized she missed Broadway.

“I didn’t miss singing every day,” she says. “But when I started in the show, I realized how much I had missed it.”

Unlike meatier roles in Ragtime and Passion, Mazzie says playing a crazy woman in a Monty Python comedy has its challenges and its rewards.

“To be in a show where, literally, people just laugh for two hours, that’s a pretty damn good thing,” she says. “At the end of the show, we sing `Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,’ and we all feel a little hopeful. Then we go home, see the news and read the papers and don’t feel so hopeful. But then we sing it again the next day.”

Next September, Mazzie and her husband are taking an actual vacation — no concert dates, no recording, no show business of any kind — to celebrate their tenth anniversary.

“Being married and being in the same business, we constantly strive to keep our lives about us,” Mazzie says. “We connect, we check in, we don’t sit and talk business all the time. We have a life together, and we constantly remind ourselves that we always need that. Obviously, sometimes it’s easier than others. Right now, it’s really hard to have time together. He has Sunday nights off, I have a show. But we do both have Mondays off.”

Mazzie says she and Danieley joke in their act (which they’ve recorded, “Opposite You,” on PS Classics) that being married 10 years for actors is like anyone else being married for 60.

For information about Mazzie’s cabaret act, visit