Marin Mazzie And Jason Danieley Are A Blast With The San Francisco Symphony
Every year the San Francisco Symphony presents a special New Year's concert and most of the time it has been a concert of Viennese Waltzes. However, this year the Symphony decided to update the annual program by presenting Vienna Woods, New York Nights: Songs of Two Cities. The world class orchestra had the good sense to present two luminous stars from Broadway, Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley, to sing some of the top showtunes in the second half of the program. If you're wondering “What ever happen to class?,” well, there was class on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall. These two marvelous singers with golden voices shone bright in all of their solos and duets. They were perfect, like two peas in a pod, as my mother used to say.
My appreciation for Ms. Mazzie goes back to the time she appeared here 10 years ago in And the World Goes 'Round. I renewed that appreciation when I saw her play Clara in Passion. I admit I was not enamored with the musical, but her singing certainly was the highlight of the show. Later, I saw her performance in Ragtime and then the best Lilli/Kate that I had ever seen in Kiss Me, Kate. This summer I was also happy to see her with the San Francisco Symphony in Candide. I thought she should have played Cunegonde since she has such amazing stage presence. The first time I saw Jason was in Candide in New York. He was the perfect naïve Candide with his beautiful tenor voice. I also saw him as the shy guy in Full Monty in New York and again in Candide this summer with the San Francisco Symphony.
The first half of the Symphony concert opened with the overture to Die Fledermaus, the operetta by Johann Strauss Jr., followed by a series of Strauss waltzes and polkas conducted by Edwin Outwater. The polkas “Excursion Train” with a European train bell and “Thunder and Lightning Polka” with thunder were fun. The weird “Egyptian March” was somewhat campy with members of the orchestra trying to sing in a strange dialect in the center of the piece. The orchestra ended the short but sweet first half with what else but “By the Beautiful Blue Danube.”
The second half opened with the overture of Gershwin’s Lady Be Good. The rhythms did not seem to have any life and the Gershwin jazz touch was missing - it just did not have the bounce that one would associate with this overture. Conductor Outwater then announced Marin and Jason, who came casually to the center of the large stage. Ms. Mazzie was wearing a stunning dark blue velvet grown and Mr. Danieley had on a very smart tuxedo. Both immediately radiated warmth to the audience. They went immediately into a duet from Bernstein’s Candide, “Oh Happy Pair.” I was reminded again that Mazzie should have played Cunegonde when they performed the complete operetta this summer. Her free rhythmic sense was perfect.
Jason left the stage and Marin went into a lively version of “Cabaret” from the Kander and Ebb musical. The way Marin really belted out the song would have made Liza jealous. Jason then came out and sang a lovely arrangement of “Maria” from West Side Story He was euphoric from the rapturous introduction to a thoughtful prayer at the close. Marin then came out to join her husband in the duet “Tonight” from the same musical. It almost made me wish I could see them do a complete concert version of the Bernstein/Sondheim musical.
Danieley left the stage and Ms. Mazzie went into Rodgers and Hart’s sophisticated “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” She started out low and softly with a jazzy sax playing in the background, and then built the song up to an amazing crescendo. Jason then did a great arrangement of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Younger Then Springtime” from South Pacific. His amazing tenor voice soared in this rendition. Marin then continued to show her effervescent voice with Kander and Ebb’s “Ring Them Bells.” Her comic timing was impeccable and she really could ring those bells.
As for their final number, the couple were sublime in their duet, “People Will Say We're in Love” from Oklahoma. Of course, the audience would not let them go without an encore and after three ovations they finally relented and sang “Indian Love Call” from Rudolf Friml’s Rose Marie. This was a lovely version of the operetta classic. Conductor Outwater then told the audience there would be a concert encore and asked both Jason and Marin if they would stay on stage to help the orchestra with a lively version of Johann Strauss Sr.'s “Radetzky March,” and they led the clapping of hands with the audience. Marin also camped it up by moving in the march beat to the music. She also did a few bumps and grinds against Jason's side while he looked somewhat embarrassed. I have a feeling this part of the program was not rehearsed. I also have a feeling they did not know they were going to participate at the end of the concert but Marin was game for anything.
Once again, the audience rose to their feet to give Marin, Jason and the orchestra a rousing ovation. There is no doubt about it - these two artists are the golden couple of the Broadway stage.
Following the concert, we had a nice conversation with both of them. They were very outgoing and charming.
Vienna Woods, New York Nights: Songs of Two Cities was presented on December 29 and 31. For information on future San Francisco Symphony presentations, visit www.sfsymphony.org.