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

K-K-K-Katie Holmes on Broadway, `Tales’ in tune

Yes, Katie Holmes, late of Dawson’s Creek, she of the couch-jumping husband, the ever-changing cute hairdos and the impossibly adorable Suri parentage, is being rumored to be heading to Broadway for a revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons starring John Lithgow and Dianne Weist. Ms. Holmes must have had a conversation with Jennifer Garner, who had such a winning run on Broadway recently in Cyrano. And Holmes’ husband, Tom Cruise, must have had a man-to-man chat with Garner’s husband, Ben Affleck, about what it’s like to be a stay-at-home dad in paparazzi-infested New York.

Variety says the 29-year-old Holmes is in negotiation for the 1947 show, which would mark her Broadway debut. The stage run would also give Ms. Holmes a little much-needed acting cred. Her most recent big-screen turn, opposite Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah in Mad Money didn’t exactly generate Oscar buzz.

In other news of the Great White Way (via Barbaray Lane in San Francisco), the long-rumored musical version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City looks like it’s finally rolling toward completion. It was long rumored that pop wunderkind Rufus Wainwright was going to turn Maupin’s beloved Baghdad by the Bay book into a musical, but now he’s off writing an opera for the MET.

So now it’s up to Jeff Whitty (Tony Award-winning book writerfor Avenue Q) and Scissor Sisters members Jason Sellards (aka Jake Shears, composer/lyricist) and John Garden (composer) to bring characters Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, Anna Madrigal, Mary Anne Singleton to the Broadway stage.

Jason Moore, who helmed Avenue Q and the upcoming Shrek musical, is slated to direct.

Seems a natural that a Tales musical would have its pre-Broadway run in — where else? — San Francisco. No word yet on such practical things as production dates.

Rufus does Judy

Who but Rufus Wainwright could be this audacious?

The 34-year-old singer/songwriter, who has always done pretty much exactly what he pleased. He makes the kind of intelligent, beautiful (some might say baroque), quirky pop music that delights his hardcore fans but tends to baffle the Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson-devouring public.

Still, the unapologetic Wainwright has managed to etch a pretty solid place for himself in the pop firmament. He released his fifth pop album, “Release the Stars” earlier this year (it’s fantastic), and he returns with a year-end double whammy sure to stir some discussion.

Last year, Wainwright played two nights at Carnegie Hall, where he re-created Judy Garland’s 1961 career-defining comeback concert at the same venue. Song for song, and with the help of a 34-piece orchestra under the smooth direction of Stephen Oreums, he sang ’em all. The show was such a hit, he repeated the show in London, Paris and Los Angeles.

Thankfully, for those of us who weren’t able to attend this highly theatrical, wonderfully wacky event, Wainwright’s performance has been preserved not once, but twice.

The two-CD “Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall” documents the Carnegie Hall concert, and the DVD “Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! Live from the London Palladium” records the London show.

Both are fantastic. There’s a high camp element to the concept — out gay man devotedly pays homage to one of the ultimate gay icons — but Wainwright’s talent is far too serious to make this a joke. On the contrary, this is, essentially, Wainwright’s way of recording an album of standards — but in such a uniquely Wainwright way.

Vocally, he strains sometimes, but for the most part, he’s digging these songs. The best of the bunch is Noel Coward’s “If Love Were All” and, of course, “Over the Rainbow” (with Wainwright’s mother, Kate McGarrigle, on piano). But Wainwright also delivers big time on “San Francisco,” “Do It Again,” “Come Rain or Come Shine” and the world’s slowest, sexiest “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”

The DVD takes the edge over the CD if only because it lets us watch the highly expressive Wainwright, and we also get the chance to see his sister, Martha Wainwright, pull out all the dramatic stops on her solo “Stormy Weather.”

Garland’s daughter, Lorna Luft, joins Wainwright for “After You’ve Gone,” though there’s no sign of that other daughter (the Minnelli one). On the DVD, we get five bonus songs: “Get Happy,” “Hello Bluebird” (with Luft again), “Someone to Watch Over Me” (with Martha and Kate), “Every Time We Say Goodbye” (with Kate) and a reprise of “San Francisco.”

I can’t think of another contemporary singer/songwriter who could pull this off, but then again, Wainwright always has been kind of a throwback — a true entertainer who can do just about anything in his own inimitable way.


I know Rufus Wainwright is not a theater person…yet. One day he’ll actually write the musical version of Tales of the City, which has been buzzed about for years, and then he’ll justify my including this concert review on a theater blog.

Wainwright’s wall of sound concert anticipates `Stars’ release

Before he was famous as the star of a televised murder trial, Phil Spector was a vaunted music producer noted for creating a distinctive “wall of sound’’ in ‘60s tunes by the likes of Ike and Tina Turner (“River Deep, Mountain High’’) and the Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’’).

As Rufus Wainwright, one of the best and brightest pop craftsmen out there, matures as a singer and songwriter, he’s entering his own “wall of sound’’ phase.

This was especially evident Wednesday night when Wainwright performed a sold-out show — or “showette’’ as he called it — at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.

Sort of a public rehearsal, Wainwright and his seven-piece band (guitar, bass, drums, three horns and a multi-instrumentalist who played piano when Wainwright was on acoustic guitar) used the show to work through the elaborate tunes on Wainwright’s upcoming album, “Release the Stars,’’ which drops May 15.

On many of the new songs, Wainwright is clearly going for a Spector-ish feel, with epic arrangements for strings (heard on pre-recorded tracks), backing vocals and electronic samples.

It’s a style he first demonstrated on “Beautiful Child,’’ a thrilling track from 2003’s “Want One’’ (and also a highlight of Wednesday’s show). Filled with symphonic, Wagnerian chaos, the song was clearly laying the groundwork for new tunes like “Release the Stars,’’ “Tiergarten,’’ “Between My Legs’’ “Do I Disappoint You?’’ and “Slideshow.’’

Such baroque arrangements give Wainwright ample opportunity to show off his grandly theatrical side and marshal his considerable musical talents. He’s always pushing his voice farther and farther, and, surprisingly, he keeps gaining more vocal control.

Unfortunately the wall of sound was too often a wall of noise on Wednesday, with the sound mix at the Palace of Fine Arts often tending toward terrible, especially when the live band was augmented by tracks.

But the audience didn’t seem to mind. They were there for Wainwright’s trademark blend of quirkiness and brilliance, and they got what they came for.

It says a lot about the 33-year-old poperatic performer that his best new songs — “Nobody’s Off the Hook,’’ “Not Ready to Love,’’ “I’m Leaving for Paris No. 2’’ — don’t’ seem at all out of place next to classics like the Gershwins’ “A Foggy Day’’ and Noel Coward’s “If Love Were All’’ (both songs are from Wainwright’s near-legendary re-creation of Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall concert).

The first single from the new album is the ballad “Going to a Town,’’ a classic love-gone-wrong break-up tune. But in this case, the misbehaving lover is America, and Wainwright has had enough.

After singing the tune and praising the Bay Area’s liberal slant, Wainwright praised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “God, I love her,’’ he said. “I want her to be the mother of my children. I guess I’m not having children.’’

That distinctive Wainwright humor is apparent in the new songs “Rules and Regulations,’’ which he says is about “an overweight, out-of-shape guy watching the Olympics,’’ and “Tulsa,’’ a musically complex tribute to Killers lead singer Brandon Flowers that begins, “You taste of potato chips in the morning.’’

Though his head is clearly in the new material at the moment, Wainwright did throw in a few older tunes, mostly from “Want One’’ (“I Don’t Know What It Is,’’ “Harvester of Hearts,’’ “14th Street’’ and “Pretty Things’’) and “Want Two’’ (“The Art Teacher,’’ “Gay Messiah’’).

He also dedicated an old Irish tune, “Macushla,’’ to his mother, Kate McGarrigle, and dueted beautifully with old friend (and opening act) Teddy Thompson on “One Man Guy,’’ written by Rufus’ father, Loudon Wainwright III.

Even in a throw-away show like this one, when he’s obviously getting ready for bigger, better things, Rufus Wainwright is able to please his fans, have some fun and reassert his peculiar pop genius.

Visit Rufus’ official Web site at

Stream samples of three of the new songs here.