By Brian Scott Lipton
Most people have to be in a terrible plane crash or on the lip of a volcano to see their life flash before their eyes. All I had to do (thankfully) was attend three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie’s splendid autobiographical show at 54 Below. Being the exact same age as this powerhouse performer, I thoroughly identified with her memories of singing along to some of the best pop songs of the 1960 and 1970s. And, of course, I knew every word of these timeless tunes. If only I had that extraordinary voice (or that figure).
True, young Marin grew up in Rockford, Illinois, while I was in River Edge, New Jersey. And her parents drank cocktails and danced to standards. Still, I doubt they listened to the gloriously jazzed-up versions heard here of “That’s All,” “Tenderly,” and especially, a passionate “Begin the Beguine” (in which Mazzie was accompanied only by drummer Larry Lelli), which made up the thrilling first quarter of the show.
We entered the true 1970s section with a rare treat, The Partridge Family’s utterly infectious “I Think I Love You,” which Mazzie performed with a wonderful re-creation of prepubescent excitement and sincerity. From there, she scored triumph after triumph: a gentle “Make Your Own Kind of Music”, a mesmerizing “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” a seductive “Midnight at the Oasis,” a breathtaking “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be” seguing into a sexy “Son of a Preacher Man,” and a truly lovely “Our House” (the one by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, not Madness.)
Her version of Paul Williams and Barbra Streisand’s Oscar-winning song “Evergreen” was note-perfect, but her tale of the circumstances in which she sang it in 1977 (and why the bridge had to be omitted) was hilarious. And then Mazzie did the near-impossible by convincing everyone in the room that the maudlin Barry Manilow hit “Time in New England” really is a good song! (OK, I always thought so.)
No matter if you’re 24, 54, or 84, this trip back in time with Marin Mazzie is a journey worth taking. And you don’t even have to fasten your seat belt!
Marin Mazzie at 54 Below (254 West 54th Street). February 4-7. Go to www.54Below.com for more information.