Welcome back, “Carrie” Nation! With the buzz building for the long-awaited MCC revival/rethinking of everyone’s favorite PROMinent musical (as well as its August 1st sneak peek, Revisiting “Carrie”), we’re going to take an in-depth look at the cast and staff. First up, that bad-a**, mother of them all, Mrs. White. Originally played by the legendary Barbara Cook out of town and the extraordinary Betty Buckley on Broadway, Carrie’s Bible-banging, ballad-belting Mom will be embodied by three-time Tony nominee, Marin Mazzie.
Can I get an “Amen”? With a big, rich voice (that veers toward the classical), the under-appreciated Mazzie has real acting chops but they’ve often been tested in “difficult” but not showy roles. Think of her sexy, conflicted Clara in Passion, having to uphold the third leg of a triangle while kept removed from the action. (You try being seductive while pacing upstage singing letters.) Even more emblematic, she starred as Mother in the original Ragtime, a role that is the true lead of the piece but is often overlooked in the buzz around more “active” characters (as a friend once pointed out to me, the show is about “a soprano who learns to be a belter”). However, as quiet as the role is as written, Mazzie was the backbone, the audience’s touchstone, the emotional heart of the production, charting Mother’s journey with subtle but unmistakeable intelligence.
Mazzie did get one big, boffo chance to tear up Broadway in the award-winning revival of Kiss Me, Kate opposite Brian Stokes Mitchell. She was a sassy, ballsy terror with a proscenium-smashing theatricality and a true comedienne’s fearlessness that surprised many people who knew her from her quieter roles. It’s this diva boldness mixed with her ability to ease back and be a tool of the greater story that I think makes her the perfect choice for creating a terrifying (but not campy) Mrs. White.
Plus, for all her Earth Mother roles, at times there can be something angular and imposing about her physicality; this lady just might be able to lock someone in a cellar.
Let’s look at a few videos that highlight unexpected corners of Mazzie’s range and show off that gorgeous voice: