By Ron Fassler
The wonderful Broadway actor and singer Jason Danieley, who opened his solo show “A Heart to Heart” at Feinstein’s/54 Below Wednesday evening for a four-night engagement (through Saturday), admits right off the bat that it’s really not just him on stage. As many know, he lost his wife, the remarkably talented theatre veteran Marin Mazzie, to ovarian cancer exactly a year ago. And for those who knew Mazzie, her loss is still a raw nerve, double-so for Danieley, making the show for him a kind of healing therapy (the term for which Mazzie dubbed her own chemotherapy). As all of us have at one time or other parted with a loved one, following Danieley through his 75-minute set is bound to bring up strong depths of empathy (it did for me). Happily, though, even with moments of sadness to contend with, what Danieley is offering on the tiny stage on West 54th Street these nights, is indeed an entertainment.
Originally developed as “Heart to Heart,” a show for Danieley and Mazzie to do together, putting the “A” in the title gives the show a different meaning. Now labeled “A Heart to Heart,” also puts a narrative through the songs (all with “heart” in their titles or lyric) that directly addresses what Danieley has been through over the past year of so many major adjustments. Not to make things even weepier, but even their dog Oscar died a few weeks after Mazzie’s own death. Luckily, it appears that Danieley is good at rolling with the punches. He confessed that being the son of a preacher has helped his grieving.
Danieley is backed beautifully by a jazz trio (Joseph Thalken, Pete Donovan and Rich Rosenzweig), and even though half his set included Broadway standards, none were arranged in Broadway fashion. As one example, Frank Loesser’s “I Believe in You” had a bossa nova beat, and others were similarly bent towards re-interpretation. This made for some invigoratingly new charges to old songs, but considering that Danieley possesses one of the best tenors in the business, it would have been nice to hear one or two done as originally orchestrated (even with so few instruments—I mean, it’s done all the time in the cabaret world). That said, it is still a consistently strong evening of song.
Danieley also used a considerable amount of stage time extolling his cancer advocacy, which he did in as much of a lighthearted manner as he could. I can’t imagine anyone feeling as if it made the evening a chore of any kind, when in fact, the contrary is true. He is determined that all he learned and went through will now be in service to others, hopefully to help make changes in the way cancer prevention is developed in the lab, as well as how patients get their treatment.
After “A Heart To Heart” concludes this Saturday, Danieley will return on Sunday evening to the 54 Below stage for a charitable event with “Marin Mazzie’s Sunflower Power Hour,” in which he will host (in alphabetical order): Liz Callaway, Victor Garber, Howard McGillin, Debra Monk, Donna Murphy, David Hyde Pierce and Karen Ziemba. Wow.
Proceeds will go to three different charities, including the Cancer Support Community (CSC). For further details, please visit the Feinstein’s/54 Below website: https://54below.com/events/cancer-support-community-fundraiser/
Jason Danieley’s “A Heart to Heart” will be performed at 7:00 pm through Saturday September 21st at at Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 W. 54 St. (cellar) NYC