- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2000

Theatergoers who see "James Joyce's 'The Dead,' " playing at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, may realize that the character Aunt Kate sounds like Deborah Kerr in the "The King and I" and Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady."

Stage veteran Marni Nixon,, who plays Aunt Kate, may be most remembered as the "ghost singer" for those roles. While Miss Nixon's voice has starred in several movies, she has been acting and singing on stage and in TV shows for many years.

"It's laid back. It's not your average musical," she says in a phone interview about "The Dead," which centers on two sisters and their niece — all music teachers — holding their annual Christmas party. "[The audience] gets kind of drawn in. It's a very warming story."

Although each member of the cast sings, Miss Nixon does not have a solo and considers her part to be more of an acting role.

"The whole play is wonderful for me, a whole ensemble acting" together, she says.

Her part is fun, too.

"She's very emotional and she does very emotional extremes," Miss Nixon says of her character. "It's very exciting."

Miss Nixon's family, similar to the family in "The Dead," was musical. Everyone played an instrument.

She began playing violin at age 4 and started studying voice at 10. The family formed an "orchestra" and often would play together.

Along the way, singing began to "seem much more personal than violin playing" to Miss Nixon. At age 17, she began singing with the Roger Wagner Chorale and appeared with the New England Opera Company and the Los Angeles Opera Company.

In the 1970s, she moved to Seattle to sing with the Seattle Opera. She also did a children's program, "Boomerang."

In the 1980s, she moved to New York City, where she still lives.

Besides her stage performances, Miss Nixon holds master classes in voice and vocal performance.

Miss Nixon did a great deal of commercial work when she was young. The movie dubbing jobs came along as a way to make money. They also allowed her to "stretch" her voice and find what range she was capable of achieving.

"The dubbing was just a hoot," she says, adding that she didn't realize the value of the work until much later.



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