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Actress and soprano Marin Mazzie, a three-time Tony Award nominee known for powerhouse Broadway performances in Ragtime, Passion and Kiss Me, Kate, has died following a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 57.
Mazzie died Thursday at her Manhattan home surrounded by close friends and family, said her husband, actor Jason Danieley. Her death was confirmed by her publicist, Kim Correro.
Tributes came from all across Broadway, including Harvey Fierstein, who wrote of Mazzie, “Beautiful, brave and inspiring. A glorious voice and an even better human being,” and Michael Urie, who called her “luminous.”
Mazzie’s broad career went from screwball comedy — in Kiss Me, Kate and Monty Python’s Spamalot on Broadway and the West End — to riveting, dysfunctional moms in Next to Normal and Carrie. Other Broadway credits included Man of La Mancha, Bullets Over Broadway, Enron and Into the Woods.
She found out about her cancer diagnosis on the opening day of a concert production of Zorba! in May 2015 and refused to pull out. In one song, she sang: “Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die.”
Mazzie later underwent a hysterectomy, a bowel resection because the cancer had spread and weeks of chemotherapy. She returned to Broadway a year later, replacing Kelli O’Hara in The King and I.
“It’s very emotional for me,” she told the Associated Press in 2016. “I’m so anxious and excited and thrilled to be able to bring, in essence, a new me back to the stage with what’s gone on in my life.”
The New York Times said Mazzie brought “a touch of brass” to the role of English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens. It praised her for a “husky quietness, and you hear the fragile heart beating beneath the stalwartly corseted form.”
Mazzie was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, in a home often filled with show tunes and original cast recordings. She attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo to study theater, and her first job was in a musical at a dinner theater in her hometown.
A key moment in her life happened when she was 8 years old and saw a touring company of Carousel starring John Raitt. In the second act, Rockford was plunged into a blackout and the actors needed flashlights to finish the show.
After it ended, Raitt came out and sang for the audience until it was deemed safe for everyone to go home. He sang for 45 minutes. “I will never forget that moment,” Mazzie recounted in Making It on Broadway, a book of Broadway stories. “To me, that was the magic of theater. Every night is different. Every audience is different. I just love the magic.”
Mazzie made her New York stage debut in the 1983 revival of Frank Loesser’s musical, Where’s Charley? Her big break came playing Beth in Merrily We Roll Along at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 1985, the first production outside New York. La Jolla artistic director Des McAnuff later put her into Big River on Broadway, marking her debut on the Great White Way.
She would work three times on Broadway with Brian Stokes Mitchell — Ragtime, Kiss Me, Kate and Man of La Mancha. (They would also work off-Broadway in a concert version of Kismet.) One of her proudest accomplishments was originating a Stephen Sondheim role, that of Clara in 1994’s Passion.
When Kiss Me, Kate opened on Broadway in 1999, Variety said “her pure and versatile soprano is Mazzie’s most marvelous attribute.” When the show went to London, a reviewer there said Mazzie was “blessed with a mouth that looks as if it could devour the Victoria Palace whole.”
Mazzie was also a frequently booked singer at concerts across the country, playing Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and with the Boston Pops, New York Pops and the New York Philharmonic. Her off-Broadway credits include Carrie and White Rabbit Red Rabbit. She released the live album Marin Mazzie: Make Your Own Kind of Music in 2015.
Mazzie met her husband in 1996 at the now-defunct theater company En Garde Arts while working on Trojan Women: A Love Story. They frequently took their love affair onstage, put out an album of duets, Opposite You, in 2005 and appeared together in the autobiographical cabaret show He Said/She Said. Mazzie and Danieley also starred in Los Angeles productions of Brigadoon and a Pasadena production of 110 in the Shade. He is now appearing in Pretty Woman.
On TV, Mazzie appeared in Without a Trace, Still Standing, Nurse Jackie, The Big C and Smash. Her off-Broadway roles included a revival of the musical Carrie, in which The New York Times said she “brings out an unexpected emotional delicacy in her character’s numbers.”
The marquee lights on all Broadway theaters will be dimmed for one minute in memory of Mazzie at 6:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday., Sept. 19.
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