Armed with twice the vocal power and awash with plenty of real, fiery chemistry, Broadway vets -- and real-life married couple -- Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley's romantically-themed cabaret showcase titled He Said/She Said played to packed, dimly-lit audiences at the intimate Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa over Valentine's Day Weekend, February 14 - 16. The touring concert act -- which also makes stops in San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Newark -- was cheekily explained as the couple's true "crazy/cool" love story told via specially-selected tunes that span classic Broadway musicals and standards from the Great American Songbook.
Joined by hard-working musical director Joseph Thalken on piano (who also did many of the show's swell new arrangements), the couple took equal solo turns and also joined in duets for their mostly swinging 90-minute set that was filled with toe-tapping ditties, familiar anthems, and even a few stirring torch songs. But, unlike other cabaret showcases that have visited the center in past years, Mazzie and Danieley offered very minimal speeches and banter between songs, allowing the songs themselves to tell their story. But, of course, they did fill in a few of the gaps here and there.
What we did learn first-hand is that the couple met by chance as cast members of the off-Broadway musical THE TROJAN WOMEN: A LOVE STORY. Much like many classic backstage stories as old as time, the show's original lead actress was suddenly fired, giving Mazzie the opportunity to step up from the ensemble and learn the larger role within 24 hours.
"Fate stepped in," Danieley explained, forcing the two to play opposite each other as lovers. "Then... she kissed me!" Danieley bellowed with a palpable glee. And, obviously, they've been kissing ever since.
Mazzie later admitted that the two "fell in love instantly" and had hoped that their off-Broadway show (which played outdoors) would get rained out, allowing them to stay cozy indoors to continue their romantic and lustful new relationship. And, guess what? Nature obliged.
Danieley, for his part, countered with a hopeful, but alarmingly self-deprecating "If I Only Had A Brain" from The Wizard of Oz. You see, according to him at the time, if he had one, "then I could get get the girl!" Awww. Cute!But first, the show opened with songs of heartache and longing -- because, you know, the two hadn't met yet. The pair started their cabaret showcase with a playful duet of Mercer's "Something's Gotta Give," followed by Mazzie's samba-flavored version of "Cockeyed Optimist" from SOUTH PACIFIC. The three-time Tony Award nominee noted that her take on the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein ballad required her to "twist it, tug it, turn it inside-out... because that's what love does to you." Well, at least, her previous beaus did.
He Said/She Said soon embarked on one of several tonal detours to allow both accomplished stage performers to really showcase their incredible belting and acting skills throughout the evening -- which, of course, followed the mood shifts of their own initial courtship. First, both expressed their hope to find a love companion. Mazzie's beautifully-portrayed longing in the Ellington/Strayhorn ballad "Something To Live For" (one of my favorite songs of all time, coincidentally) is marvelously done, while Danieley responded with an excellent rendition of the Gershwins' classic "Someone To Watch Over Me."
Then, poof! The two meet and Danieley instantly turned into a giddy lover boy ("I've Got The World On A String") while his new lover became happy, yet understandably cautious (via a mash-up of "They Didn't Believe In Me" and "Keeping Out Of Mischief"). Soon the pair's newfound bliss hit a sudden snag: In their most personal revelation during the entire set, the pair admitted that after spending their rained-out days in Mazzie's apartment (and I think you can figure out the whats and the whys), she surprised him by saying, out of nowhere... "Don't freak out... but I gotta go see my shrink!" Ha! Didn't see that one coming!
Thus began a section of songs that illustrated the new couple's uneasiness and trepidation. After a manic "Too Close For Comfort" duet, Mazzie dashed over to her therapist's office to sing Cole Porter's amusing "The Physician" followed by her showstopping, superb rendition of "Cry Me A River" -- the latter easily worth the price of a ticket alone. Later, her rich, gorgeous vocals on Charlie Chaplin's oft-saccharine "Smile" gave it a haunting beauty as does the Rodgers and Hart standard "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."