Three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie and her husband, Broadway veteran Jason Danieley, are starring in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Next to Normal, where they portray married couple Diana and Dan Goodman (note, plot points revealed in the conversaton). Mazzie and Danieley first appeared on stage together in 1996 in the off-Broadway play, The Trojan Women: A Love Story.
Broadway World reporter Nick Orlando spoke with Mazzie and Danieley about the powerful musical.
I saw the show a couple of weeks ago and it is so moving and emotional. It starts off funny, but becomes very serious when Diana brings out the birthday cake, and we learn the nature and depth of her illness. What did you think of the progression of the show from opening to closing?
Marin Mazzie: It is the journey of the piece. You are meeting this family who is somewhat normal and then you realize what is going on. It is brilliant the way this piece draws in the audience. You get to see what this family has been dealing with for the last 16 years of their life. You can watch how this family is functioning or not functioning.
Jason Danieley: We are educated little bit by little bit. By the end, with the set up of humor when the cake comes into play, etc. you are so vested in these people.
MM: You have to open yourself up emotionally.
What is it like for Dan knowing his wife is bipolar, but there is nothing he can do about it?
JD: When the play starts, the issues have been going on for many years. Dan is frustrated with the medical profession. He feels optimistic, even if it's delusional. By the end, he is realistic; the best thing for the marriage is for Diana to leave. He wasn't able to help her.
MM: Dan did what he thought was right. It is such a difficult thing to be in that position and trying to manage what he is trying to do. It is very admirable.
Did you see the show prior to being cast?
MM: Yes, when they approached us, we saw the show.
JD: We didn't get around to seeing it before hand.
The producers called and asked the two of you to come in together?
JD: Yes, and we saw the musical and said we have to do this show! It is the first show we are doing together on Broadway, and it was a no brainer.
Is it more difficult coming in as a replacement?
MM: I don't look at things as being more difficult. The process was great. Our director, Michael Greif, was very helpful.
What were rehearsals like for you?
MM: We had three and a half weeks to rehearse. Michael was with us quite a bit. Meghann Fahy [previously the understudy] came in as well to play our daughter. So, we were pretty much starting with a new family.
How was it connecting to the kids?
MM: The minute I met Meghann, I thought she could be our daughter. I felt a deep connection. I feel Kyle Dean Massey is our son. I am so protective of him.
JD: The entire company is wonderful. Everyone in that cast will grab what you give them and run with it.
What kind of research did you need to do to learn about this disorder?
MM: I read a lot of books that Michael Greif suggested, as well as others. Two different people in our family had similar illnesses, so we had that to draw on. Someone who lives near us is schizophrenic. Unless you have the disease, you don't realize what these people are going through.
Have you heard from audience members about how the show affected them?
MM: Yes, either at the stage door or from people who write to me. I've heard from people who are bipolar or have a family member who is; it is extremely moving. I heard from parents who lost a child. The audience says ‘this is me, this is my family.'
JD: Bipolar doesn't necessarily mean schizophrenic. Diana appears normal.