With her two shopping bags full of notes, and her velvet gloves, she helped a punk college kid launch his first musical based on Medea, the play by Euripides. What was I thinking? She was tireless, funny, tough, and impossible. I had no idea what I was doing but she got me through it. I could not afford to pay her except with cheap lunches and dinners at the local diner, Tiny Naylors. She did not care. She loved the patty melts . She cut the lousy songs, kept the passable ones. She edited the book. She coached the children in the show how to carry a tune. She even dubbed the voice of the sorceress, Medea, when the lead clammed up and couldn’t hit the high notes.
Marni Nixon was a sorceress, herself – hiding behind the screen and lending her voice to the musical treasures of American film history including West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and The King and I. Her mimetic gift allowed her to transform her singing voice to sound like an movie star’s speaking voice. The kind and friendly Ghost Voice of the American movie musical has died at 86. Surely, a sacred confluence is gathering somewhere in the stars where Marni, Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, and Natalie Wood can sing as one , and in key, as they celebrate the sheer miracle of life.