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Remembering Broadway Star Marin Mazzie


One of Broadway's best-loved leading ladies has died. Actress Marin Mazzie died yesterday from ovarian cancer at the age of 57. Mazzie was known for her roles in the musicals "Passion" and "Ragtime." Jeff Lunden offers this appreciation.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: Marin Mazzie always made an impression onstage.

BEN BRANTLEY: The first time I saw Marin Mazzie would have been naked in the opening scene of "Passion," the Stephen Sondheim musical in which she played an adulterous lover.


MARIN MAZZIE: (As Clara, singing) All this happiness merely from a glance in the pond...

LUNDEN: New York Times drama critic Ben Brantley.

BRANTLEY: What you noticed was the natural radiance of her presence and the great beauty of the voice.


MAZZIE: (As Clara, singing) All this happiness...

LUNDEN: Mazzie grew up in Rockford, Ill., listening to original cast recordings with her parents. When she was 8, her family went to see a performance of "Carousel." There was a blackout in the middle of the show, but the cast continued to perform as the audience shined flashlights on the stage, Mazzie recalled in a video for Lincoln Center.


MAZZIE: The thing that was amazing about that moment was live theater. You are all there in this building or, you know, space, wherever it is, experiencing it as it happens. It will never happen that way again even if you're doing a show 800 times, which I have done. Every night is different because you're a different person. The audience is different. And I think that that really struck me when I was, you know, 8 years old as something that I wanted to be a part of.

LUNDEN: And she was very much part of it whether on or off Broadway in concerts or cabaret.


MAZZIE: (As Mother, singing) Back in the days when I let you make all my choices - we can never go back to before.

LUNDEN: Critic Ben Brantley says whatever the role, whatever the time period - this song is from "Ragtime" - Mazzie commanded attention.

BRANTLEY: When she was on a stage, she ruled the stage not in an egotistical way. But she just had that old-style presence that communicates itself and to what you want from a musical leading lady.


MAZZIE: (As Katharine, singing) I hate men. I can't abide them even now and then.

LUNDEN: Mazzie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago. She got the news right before she had a performance of the musical "Zorba!" she told PBS in 2016.


MAZZIE: But I went to the show that night. I went from Memorial Sloan Kettering, and I walked to City Center. And I went to my dressing room and put on my makeup and put on my wig and walked out on stage. And I start the show, and I sang. I said, listen to me, and I sing.


MAZZIE: (As the Leader, singing) Life is what you do while you're waiting to die. Life is how time goes by.


MAZZIE: And who would ever thought those Fred Ebb lyrics would be telling for the next journey of my life.

LUNDEN: One year after her diagnosis, Mazzie was back on Broadway in "The King And I."


MAZZIE: (As Anna Leonowens, singing) Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.

LUNDEN: She used that platform to let women and men know about genetic testing for cancer. And Mazzie had a strong partner, fellow performer Jason Danieley. They became well-known for their joint concerts and cabaret shows.


MAZZIE: I feel very grateful and lucky that I have been able to make a living in this business, and I think that's the greatest gift - and to have, you know, my amazing husband as my life partner.

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.