Marin Mazzie’s Sunflower Power Hour

Marin Mazzie (Photo Richard Termine)

 

by Matt Smith

 

“It is impossible to describe Marin Mazzie’s ability to make a song that you know well, sound like you’ve never heard it before…. every time she sings.”

Quite a bold statement, to say the least — even if expressed so eloquently by someone so distinguished as actor Victor Garber — but a truthful one with which many would concur, as evidenced by the hordes of friends and fans who poured into the intimate Feinstein’s/54 Below last month for a star-studded celebration of the actress’ inimitable life and legacy, commemorating both Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and the first anniversary of her untimely death.

 

In addition to the concert, the anniversary is commemorated with the recent release of “Broadway and Beyond,” a live album and companion DVD (produced by Michael J. Moritz, Jr., and distributed by Broadway Records) of Mazzie and Danieley’s final NYC appearance in June of 2017, which also, serendipitously, took place at Feinstein’s/54 Below.

“It’s not a memorial,” host Jason Danieley — Mazzie’s husband of 22 years — assured, of the earlier September bash, “but rather, a remembrance of her indomitable spirit as a friend, as an artist, and as an advocate for cancer.”

 

Jason Danieley

 

Drawing inspiration from their shared affinity for old-timey variety shows, he assembled a knockout roster of Broadway’s heaviest hitters (and, more importantly, Mazzie’s closest friends) to present Marin Mazzie’s Sunflower Power Hour, an uplifting and inspirational evening of light and love, that honored her life in lieu of dwelling on her death. Of note, the evening was named for the sunflower, not only because it was Mazzie’s favorite of the blooming blossoms, but one, as Danieley explains, that perpetually turns toward the light even in darkness — “a perfect metaphor for Marin.”

In that vein, as expressed, the mood was kept mostly on the lighter side, with robust songs and speeches that spoke to Mazzie’s character, life outlook and the milestones in her career.

 

Debra Monk

 

David Hyde Pierce, Debra Monk

 

Liz Callaway

 

Howard McGilllin

 

Among the highlights of the emotional evening were Debra Monk, who channeled Mazzie’s “down and dirty” side to exhibit the ways in which the actress was “Everybody’s Girl,” while Liz Callaway praised Mazzie’s ability to unwaveringly “be a lion,” even in the toughest of times. Meanwhile, frequent co-star Karen Ziemba offered a haunting rendition of Mazzie’s life anthem, “The World Goes ‘Round,” and longtime Phantom friend Howard McGillin sang of how time evokes past memories and impacts one’s loss. Garber was on hand to offer his aforementioned remarks, while Susan Stroman, director of both Mazzie’s debut and egregiously premature final Broadway performance, encouraged us to “ring them bells whenever you can” as Mazzie undoubtedly always would.

Interspersed between these numbers were poignant, moving selections from Danieley’s own “A Heart to Heart” — a set performed earlier in the week at the venue — which was, in itself, repurposed from a duo show originally intended for the husband and wife to perform together.

But of course, amidst the revelry, the purpose of the evening was not lost among the crowd, as Mazzie’s presence permeated through the room with each number. Widely known as a powerhouse performer in her own right, Mazzie also became a fervent patient advocate with the Cancer Support Community (CSC) following her diagnosis, championing early detection, prevention, and overall awareness of ovarian cancer through her work onstage.

“When I first met Marin and Jason upon Marin’s diagnosis, there was just something about them that was different,” says CSC President Linda House, detailing her “very special” relationship with Mazzie, through the latter’s advocacy and attitude. “Even while going through her own journey, she just wanted to help, asking ’What can I do?’ and ‘How can I be the most effective?’ I’ll never forget that [initial] phone call, nor the tireless work that she did, and Jason continues to do, for our organization.”

 

Donna Murphy

 

Karen Ziemba

Linda House

 

To that end, with Danieley’s vow to continue fighting on behalf of his wife and cancer patients everywhere, proceeds from the evening served to directly benefit CSC, a global nonprofit network of over 175 locations worldwide that provide $50 million in free support and navigational services to patients and their loved ones every year.

But even with the recognition of Mazzie’s rightfully lauded efforts, the evening’s focus, nonetheless, seemed to circle back to her gift of song — the gateway through which these esteemed performers came to know her and her unparalleled talent and generosity.

Today, Danieley shares, “Marin speaks to me through music” — a phenomenon which he describes as, understandably, “both beautiful and devastating to experience at the same time.” “You can do this if you want to,” he says she said to him before an engagement over the summer. “If you want to continue singing, you can do it. You’ll work through it. But know I’m always here… you’ll never walk alone.”

Donna Murphy, in a somewhat prophetic venue debut, divulges, when Mazzie sang, “She was golden in such a way that it seemed to be emitted from every pore of her body. It was kind of awesome to see.”

“Marin was here for me… she was here for everyone,” Murphy continues, stating that her warmth was so palpable that just upon meeting her, with that first initial hug, she knew: “This woman is going to be dear to me for the rest of my life.”

Indeed she was, and to all who crossed her path. And, given that, to steal from the conclusion of Garber’s earlier speech, “Aren’t we lucky to have had her for so long?”

Photos: Ben Asen/Cancer Support Community.

 

Marin Mazzie’s Sunflower Power Hour, which served to directly benefit Cancer Support Community, was held at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 W. 54th Street) on September 22nd, 2019. For more information, visit www.cancersupportcommunity.org. Proceeds from the “Broadway and Beyond” album will also directly benefit Cancer Support Community, as well as the Actor’s Fund of America and ovarian cancer research foundation Tina’s Wish. For more information, visit www.broadwayrecords.com.

 

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