When Philadelphia born and Danville bred Dani Marcus was cast as one of the most irreverent versions of Snow White for two years back in 2000, little did she realize that it would be the best training she could ask for, training that has prepped her well for her new gig.
That version of Snow White exists in the wildly popular and historic “Beach Blanket Babylon,” the longest running musical revue in the nation, clocking in at 41 years and counting at San Francisco’s Club Fugazi. That show’s plot revolves around Snow White as she travels throughout San Francisco looking for her Prince Charming. Through these travels, she runs into a who’s who of pop culture. One night, it might be an encounter with Vladimir Putin, while another night may be a meeting with Kim Kardashian’s derriere.
The show has run for more than 15,000 performances, seen by more than six million people. For Marcus, the controlled chaos that reigns supreme in BBB has connected her well to her Broadway debut.
“Doing the show was an invaluable experience for me, because it was my first professional gig, and I learned what it meant to build stamina and do eight shows a week,” said Marcus. “I knew what it felt like to live a performer’s lifestyle.”
Marcus’ new gig is the musical comedy “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” a show that follows the exploits of Monty Navarro, a man on the ninth rung of the ladder of heirs. In order to get to the top, he needs to off the eight relatives above him, all the while trying his best to stay out of the big house and keep his mistress happy. Yes, he sounds like a great guy.
The show anchors into the Golden Gate Theatre for most of December, playing through the 27th. It has garnered four Tony Awards back in 2014, including best musical. After opening on Broadway in November of 2013, it was announced in September that the show’s Broadway run will close for good in January of 2016.
Marcus, a graduate of Emerson College in Boston, does some juggling herself in the show, though not necessarily with horrific intent. She is a swing, which means she must know multiple roles and be ready to go on at a moment’s notice. Because “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” has some serious comical demands to it, “Beach Blanket Babylon” has proven to be Marcus’ perfect guide to energy and stamina.
Learning from legendary “Beach Blanket Babylon” performers such as 30-year veteran Val Diamond and current stalwart Renee Lubin was invaluable. For Marcus, they were huge influences, which taught her so much about performing in a production as playful as “Gentleman’s Guide.”
“I learned so much from them about comedy and how to play with an audience,” said Marcus. “That show is so dependent on relations between the performer and our audience. It’s quite presentational, where you look people right in the eye, and I learned how to keep something so broad very grounded and real, and how to make Snow White into a real person.”
The process it takes to build one character is similar to the process of building multiple characters. But for a swing, what is different is that a character is built by watching rehearsal, not by being on the stage herself. Marcus spoke of getting writer’s wrist while taking exhaustive notes on all of the characters she could potentially play.
“We basically learn as much as we can by watching, and once the preview process starts, our own rehearsal process begins,” said Marcus.
Even though swings are not guaranteed to perform, it certainly happens. Illnesses, days off, weddings, you name it. And when it happened for Marcus, making her Broadway debut in Cleveland, she was beside herself.
“It was thrilling and terrifying, and it was so much fun but I don’t remember a lot of it,” said Marcus. “There were so many things I had to remember for the first time, and I was so hyper-focused.
“I’ve never not had a full rehearsal process and a full technical rehearsal in my career, so this was a very different experience and one crazy adventure.”
Because Marcus is coming home to do the show she has fallen madly in love with, she understands and accepts the fact that there is a good chance she may not get on the stage. But even though she will have plenty of friends and family in the audience who may not see her, she still feels a privilege to be a part of this murderous family.
“Regardless of whether I go on or not, I want people to see the show because everyone is so fantastic,” said Marcus. “I am very lucky to watch it on a regular basis.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
SHNSF presents “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman
Music by Steven Lutvak
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Through Dec. 27th
The Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA
Tickets range from $45 – $212
For tickets, call (888) 746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com