Jason D. Danieley is an American actor, singer, concert performer and recording artist. He is married to fellow performer, Marin Mazzie.
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I'm Jason Danieley. You might know me from my performances on PBS in "South Pacific," "Carousel," and Kander & Ebb's "Ring Them Bells." I'm also a symphony guest artist performing around the world with some of the best symphony orchestras across the globe. I've been fortunate enough to be a Broadway star that's appeared in "The Full Monty," "Next to Normal" (with my wife Marin Mazzie), and now I'm starring alongside Chita Rivera and Rodger Rees in the highly anticipated last musical written by Kander & Ebb, "The Visit." You can see "The Visit" now on Broadway, more information here.
I also recently began a very popular blog, called The Danieley Digest (http://www.jasondanieley.com/blog/), which is theater from a theater actor's perspective - an insider's view of musical theater on Broadway.
I'm based in New York and when I'm not onstage, I'm an advocate for the Alzheimer's Association, and I've run with the Athletes to End Alzheimer's team this past November. My wife and I live in the Berkshires, and frequently perform with the Boston Pops - so we are going to be performing with them this June, and also with Tanglewood.
I'm looking forward to your questions, Victoria's helping me get started. AMA.
Update: Thank you all for the great questions. I have to run to the theater, and beat my face for the matinee. If you have any more questions, leave them here, and I'll get to them later today.
Non-serious question: Do you ever wish you could get rich off sardines?
Serious question: How does it feel working on something that so many people were unsure if it would ever actually happen on Broadway (and opening in time for this year's eligibility period)?
I bet Mr. Snow raked in the dough on that idea. right?
Working on THE VISIT is exactly what I wanted to do when I started performing. It's a musical that has something to say and is entertaining at the same time. I've been lucky enough to be a part of many shows like this. FLOYD COLLINS, NEXT TO NORMAL, THE HIGHEST YELLOW (Michael John LaChiusa in DC), DREAM TRUE (Ricky Ian Gordan) and they don't always make it to the Great White Way. This is one of those unique opportunities. I'm thrilled for audiences to see this great work. I'm hopeful that it will be recognized for the great piece of art that it is now and not years from now like some other K&E shows.
In the Sondheim 80th Birthday Concert, you and your lovely and talented wife Marin are introduced as "the naughtiest couple of Broadway." How did you earn that title?
Well, DHP (David Hyde Pierce) and I had performed for over a year in the K&E musical CURTAINS. I have a penchant for dirty jokes and would tell a different one each show. He has a particular fondness for "blue" comedy and is really quite good at himself. He wrote me a birthday limerick that included the rhymes for Danieley as annually, manually and Cocker-Spanieley. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
OK, real question: When you perform a complicated character eight shows a week, how much does the emotional life of the character affect you when you are off stage? "Next to Normal", for example, must have been a tremendous mental challenge for you and Marin?
actually, both Marin and I really try and leave it all at the theatre. Marin had the lions share of the drama in N2N. She began her day by getting depressed so that at curtain time she was primed to have her major mental breakdown at the top of the show. But at the time the curtain falls, she's grabbing my ass as we walk off stage. Gotta leave it all out there.
Can I borrow your Ford Festiva? I gotta pick up a new AC at Nobody Beats the Wiz.
Brian was my first roommate in NYC, actually Queens. He borrowed my car on several occasions. You don't know how rare a commodity it is to have four wheels in NYC. And Brian, NO. You can afford your own car or many cars now. :D
I'll fill up the tank!
At the least.
Hi Jason! First of all I have to say that your performance in Carousel was brilliant... It was my first time seeing that show and that production has stayed with me...
On to my question: what advice to you have to aspiring musical theatre actors? I'm a rising senior at CCM (where John riddle went!), so I'm going to be moving to New York in about a year! What advice would you give to your 20 something self that had just moved to New York?
Thanks for doing this AMA!
There is so much advice to give. A quick plug for my blog might prove helpful in the long run.
Don't make theatre the ONLY thing you do. Have some outside interests. You can't be a fully realized human being if you are only focusing on the latest Jason Robert Brown musical, although they are great. You need to have other things that inspire you and get you going. I, for instance, am active with the Alzheimer's Association. I have a personal experience with my grandmother who suffered and succumbed to it. I'm also a runner so I ran the NYC Marathon with them this last Nov.
I sing cabaret, concert hall concerts as well as master classes to express my creativity all the time not only when there is an audition or a show to do. You have to create opportunity for yourself. That's the only thing that is within your control. All the other stuff is dependent on so many outside elements that it can drive you crazy.
Jason, you are so talented and turning in such a brilliant performance in THE VISIT. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this AMA!
What is it like working with John Doyle? Could you elaborate a bit on his process or elements of the rehearsal period of THE VISIT that you found effective or unique? I’m an aspiring musical theatre director and am fascinated by his work.
Thank you for your kind words about my performance in THE VISIT. John Doyle is quite an extraordinary director. He works in a very relaxed and efficient manner. He's wonderfully trusting of the actor and their process. He makes you feel like a true and equal collaborator. Often his most informative way to direct is telling us stories of his grandmother in Scotland that seem random but somehow wrangle us all in the exact same direction without trying to "tell" us what to do. He's the best
Hey Jason! Do you have a favorite theatre or space whose stage you've performed?
Depending on the type of work I'm doing but I really am loving the Lyceum theatre where THE VISIT is playing on W45th St. It is the PERFECT size for this show. It's intimate but allows the show to feel as epic as it is. There's not a bad seat in that house. You can see every glaring glance that Chita and I exchange as rivals (sort of) in the story.
How long does it take you to get ready for The Visit? How long after the show?
It takes me at least a full hour to get ready for the show, especially if my dressing roommate Rick Holmes come in in a particularly talkative mood which is ALWAYS! I love him and he keeps me laughing the whole hour we are painting the very detailed makeup design on our faces and talking about the line readings he's going to try... which, thank God, he never actually does.
Paint the face, put on the 7 layers of wool clothing, say hello to all the cast, crew and orchestra then head to places. I need to connect with everyone I can before we start the story.
How's Oscar? ;-)
Oscar is great! He's keeping me company in the den as I answer these great AMA questions.
I can say that I know of a few people already working on learning a few numbers from it.
Are there any other works that you've been a part of or would like to be a part of that you think deserve a run on Broadway?
Well, I think FLOYD COLLINS is a show that should make it's way to Broadway. Our sound designer for THE VISIT Dan Moses Shrerer and Mary Beth Piel also worked on Floyd and we were saying that very thing.
I've been a part of a musical called SECONDHAND LIONS based on the 2002 movie with Robert Duval and Michael Kane, we did a run at the 5th Ave. theatre in Seattle two years ago. We are doing a new workshop on it in two weeks and I think it could possibly come in next season or the one after that. It's a really fun show that the whole family will like.
And I play a role unlike any anyone has ever seen me play. The Sultan of Oujda! An evil Moroccan Sultan. Yup! that's right.
What's your favorite movie?
I guess it may be THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE. I know that may seem random and it kind of surprises me that I say that but I adore that kind of humor (French/quirky/dark) and the hot jazz of that era is fantastic. Not to mention the incredible animation. No big Disney eyes. :D
A couple of months ago, my wife and I were at a show at 54 Below where you, Christian Borle, Celia Keenan-Bolger and a few others performed. We saw your wife at the back of the theater sitting with Roger Rees - my wife and I were just star-struck by all of you. My question is, how do you feel about fans coming up and talking to you? We were hesitant to, and I've regretted it since, though of course if it is a big deal, we're glad we didn't. At any rate, the show was hugely enjoyable.
That's so nice of you to say, that you are a fan, but I am always happy to meet people. I guess my caveat on that is as long as they don't ramble on about this and that. I have a feeling, based on your comment, that that wouldn't have been the case with you.
I find I meet so many very interesting people that way. Some real friendships come from such encounters.
My good friend now, Jennifer Levy, was a friend who has ended up working with Marin and me on our websites and keeping other fans up to date through our email list. I must say all of that was her suggestion. we don't put our fans "to work" Ha Ha!
Besides I also looked after your car while you were on tour being a bunny rabbit. I felt like the king of Queens, before that was a show.
Yes. The Velveteen Rabbit! That's what we call "paying your dues" or maybe in all caps PAYING YOUR DUES. It got me my equity card at least.
I love the FLOYD COLLINS recording, and only wish I could have seen the original production. I did eventually see the 1999 mini-tour of regional theaters, which shared much of the same creative staff. Are there any memorable moments you have from that show?
I remember almost everything about that show. It was my introduction to the NY theatre scene. How luck am I? I was instantly introduced to the entire Richard Rodgers, Mary Rodgers Guettle and Adam Guettle family and all that that family of theatre royalty is connected with.
Business side aside... It was a very creative process. Tina Landau who wrote the book/addl. lyrics and directed it works using The Viewpoints. It was the most freeing and total collaborative way of working I had ever worked.
I still have very close friends from that show. Martin Moran was my best man in my wedding and best friend. Theresa McCarthy was my sister Nelllie and has sung with my band The Frontier Heroes...
My favorite moment on stage possibly EVER has to be singing "The Riddle Song" with Chris Innvar. Total theatrical magic. I also love that when Stephen Sondheim was interviewed some years ago about the songs he wished he had written he included "The Riddle Song" in that list. It is good to have confirmation that it is indeed one of the greatest songs written for the music theatre.
Since the best theater stories are always about things that go wrong, what is the worst thing that has happened to you on stage?
Well, I've told this story many times, but I guess it bears repeating. During the finale of THE FULL MONTY just as we tear off our g-strings and throw them high in the air along with our hats we are backlit by a giant sign that says The Full Monty leaving us only in silhouette. One night the lighting board got ahead of us and instead of being backlit the lighting cue for the curtain call came up. That is the hottest most lit up the stage is at any time during the show. So needless to say we were all screaming a little bit but maybe not as much as some of those really surprised people in the audience that night.
when did you discover your love of musical theater??
I started singing when I was very young, 4, in my dad's church (he was the preacher). I loved storytelling but didn't really know what music theatre was. When it all came together, watching Gene Kelly and Howard Keel MGM musicals and going to the MUNY in St. Louis, where I grew up, I saw Sweeney Todd on PBS and it changed my life. I have Sondheim and George Hearn (the actor playing Sweeney) to thank for catapulting me into what I do.
Can you describe your Visit co-stars using one word for each?
Wow that would be a task.
Chita - Salty
Roger - Sweet
Rick - Sardonic
David Garrison - dry
Mary Beth Piel - Regal
Aaron Ramey - solid
Tim Shew - hammy
George abud - Shooting star
John Riddle - surprising
Michelle V. - look out!
Diana DiMarzio - Stalwart
Chris Newcomer - Likeminded
Matt Deming - devious
Elena Shaddow - Surprising
how does he adjust with all your travel?
He's a very sensitive boy. When we are simply vocalizing he gets anxious as he knows we are leaving. He has an incredible dog walker, Ana, who takes him to her home while we are on Symphony or concert tours and he has a second home.
so, when are you coming back to Key West? How about March 2016?
As soon as we get an invitation! :D
What is the hardest thing about working on The Visit?
My particular physicality for my character. John Doyle's inspiration for the look at approach of the show is based liberally on Classical Greek theatre and the Yiddish theatre. There is an exaggerated walk and facial features I've made a part of Schoolmaster Kuhn's life. If I don't stretch properly my back and knees suffer. I also have a permanent frown and furrowed brow that requires some relaxation after a performance. I use the Alexander Technique to help me from getting too tense and causing any bad and long lasting habits.
If you could star in a movie remake of a musical which one and why?
This wasn't a movie musical but there is a musical of this movie that I think deserves much more attention that it has been given. A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN was one of my favorite shows to do.
It's about a father who loves his family tremendously, especially his daughter, but because of his own demons he's never able to rise to the occasion. It speaks to the fatalistic romantic in me. I guess it's the German/Irish in me.
The score by Arthur Schwartz and Dorothy Fields is stunning. I had the great good fortune to do this at Encores at City Center in NYC back in NYC. I've always wanted to record it.
> SECONDHAND LIONS
The Haley Joel Osment movie? That sounds fun.
Break a leg on the workshop. Sounds like a good idea, plus you being a Sultan and all that.
e: What's your favorite other show that's on right now?
Yes, with Haley J O.
I sent my mom and two sisters to see ON THE TOWN last night. I saw this production up at Barrington Stage Co. in Pittsfield, MA a couple of years ago and thought it was tremendous then. I haven't seen it at the Lyric but have heard wonderful things.
I made my Bway debut in Leonard Bernstein's CANDIDE and have always loved his music. Such a shame we don't have more musicals from him. But the score for OTT is iconic and so much fun. I really have to get there to hear the original orchestrations played by the real size orchestra. You don't year that kind of sound much any more in commercial theatre on Bway.
Also the three guys are quite astounding at their triple threat business. Dancing, singing, acting... they are doing it all at warp speed.
Nice! At least cell phone cameras weren't a big thing yet.
Do you think it was really an accident, or did someone pay off the light board operator?
Yes, thank God cell phones weren't as advanced as they are now. I know it was an accident as the Stage Manger who was calling the show that night was reduced to a liquid blob of blubber because she felt so bad.
Needless to say the very next night we had a master kill switch on the board to ensure that would never happen again. I personally didn't have too much of a problem with it but that could be me remembering things a little differently 14 years later.
All of the physical work pays off for the audience. Every scene looks like a painting.