Celebrating Marin Mazzie
It breaks my heart to be sitting here and writing a remembrance of Marin Mazzie who passed away this last Thursday at the age of 57. Mazzie was a luminescent star of the Broadway musical stage, investing heart and soul into every song that she sang and every role that she embodied. There was something ethereal and magical in her voice, lifting us out of our daily lives and transporting us to somewhere near heaven.
My first experience with Mazzie was seeing her in the Broadway musical Passion. I kept wondering, “Who is this gorgeous woman with the terrific voice that they have reading the mail?” Of course, it was more than that, but that’s what my first reaction was. It was my subtle way of acknowledging I was in the presence of performing greatness, and I most certainly was. She could read the phone book and hypnotize us. Her performance of the character of Clara would make me an avid follower of her career. She would receive a Tony monination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
Next would be Ragtime wherein Ms. Mazzie painted, in exquisite detail, everything that was wonderful about “Mother.” From her reticence and uncertainty in her portion of “Journey On”, through her gentle reflection in “Our Children,” to her powerful personal liberation in “Back to Before,” the actress so perfectly captured each moment with thoughtful precision. Nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, Marin Mazzie was the beating heart of Ragtime.
Mazzie’s turn as Katherine/Lilli Vanessi in the 1999 revival of Kiss Me, Kate made me immediately interested in buying a ticket. By now I was an avid fan and I certainly was thrilled to see a whole new side of the actress. Waspishly hilarious, Marin showed audiences her bravura comedic skills, making a meal out of such songs as “I Hate Men” and “Wunderbar,” earning a well-deserved as second Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
For my money, is was Mazzie’s turn in the 2002, Brian Stokes Mitchell-led revival of Man of La Mancha that stands out as her most moving stage performance. She replaced Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the role of Aldonza during the production’s run, giving a performance of such gut-wrenching gravitas that I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with myself. Her evolution from the beleaguered crass whore into the beautiful Dulcinea of Don Quixote’s imagination was something to behold: incremental, nuanced, and ultimately, inspirational. We can be changed by how people see us.
Most recently, I saw Marin Mazzie replace Kelli O’Hara as Anna Leanownes in the Lincoln Center Theatre revival of The King and I. I knew before entering the theatre that this would be a perfect marriage of performer and material, and, as was always the case where Ms. Mazzie was concerned, I was not disappointed. The role seemed to offer everything she was best at: singing lovely songs in her crystal clear voice, mining the comedy of awkward and frustrating situations, and playing into her specialty of defining characters with a patrician refinement and sensibility. It was a glorious, crowning achievement in a career that, had the fates been kinder, would have endured for decades to come.
I mourn for the loss of Marin Mazzie. She was a bright star that has created so many wonderful, meaningful memories in my theatergoing career. I regret the times I didn’t get to see her in shows like Spamalot, Enron, Next to Normal and the Off-Broadway revival of Carrie. The theatre community has endured such a terrible loss. The musical stage and the world in general will be an emptier, colder place without her. She remains the spirited energy that ignites the footlights, and those who love her will always think of her when a curtain rises.