By Brian Scott Lipton . . .
As Jason Danieley breaks into a grin in the middle of the timeless standard “Smile,” the first song in his superb new show “Reflections” at Feinstein’s/54 Below, one can practically hear the audience breathe a collective sigh of a relief. It’s unlikely that anyone in that room on Sunday night wasn’t aware of how much Danieley has struggled since his now-late-wife, the actress Marin Mazzie, died of ovarian cancer in 2018.
What we also learn here (if we didn’t know) is how much more Danieley has survived in recent years – the loss of his beloved dog, bouts with both viral meningitis and COVID – and, more importantly, how he has triumphantly emerged with new partners in life and a renewed sense of hope.
What we probably also knew is that Danieley’s soaring baritenor has remained intact over the past few years, and indeed, his booming, flexible voice remains one of the greatest vocal instruments on stage today. Better still, he puts it to excellent use throughout his tightly conducted set. From the ruminative, gorgeous “Time” (co-written by his musical director, Joseph Thalken, and Barry Kleinbort) to a seductive rendition of Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington’s “The Nearness of You,” Danieley hits the right notes, figuratively and literally, on song after song.
By and large, Danieley eschews tunes from the musicals he’s done on stage — with the one exception being a truly heart-rendering version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” (He played Enoch Snow in Lincoln Center’s excellent 2013 concert production of Carousel.) Instead, he opts for a nicely varied program, including the 1950s pop hit “Young and Foolish,” Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s stirring “Who Can I Turn To,” Harry Connick Jr’s genial “Recipe for Love” and Gary Morris’ beautiful country ballad “The Love She Found in Me” (which he says was the audition song that got him cast in his first major New York show, Floyd Collins).
Moreover, he cleverly reworks a few of the lyrics in the Gershwin’s “Soon” to turn this sweet-natured ditty into a love song for his new canine companion, King, while his lovely bossa-nova styled renditions of “All the Things You Are” and “Night and Day” are dedicated to his new Brazilian girlfriend Andrea (who was only hearing him sing for a crowd for the second time at this performance.)
And, just in case there is any question that Danieley is moving forward with what he calls “Chapter 3” in his life – just weeks after turning 50 – his encore seals the deal: the uplifting “Believe It or Not” (the popular theme song for the 1980s TV show The Greatest American Hero.”). Its opening lyrics, “look at what’s happened to me/I can’t believe it myself,” are remarkably apt considering Danieley’s difficult journey these past few years, and the fact that, once more, he feels “on top of the world” again is a true cause for joy.