It's 6:45 on a Friday night, and we're backstage at the Nederlander Theatre in Tony Danza's dressing room. It's a tiny little space just off stage right, and nearly every inch of the walls is taken up with either framed photos or cards from well-wishers. On a daybed is a ukulele, which Danza is teaching himself how to play, and which he eagerly strums for guests.
Danza is wearing sweats from his alma mater, the University of Dubuque, and sitting in front of his makeup mirror eating dinner. Next to the uke is Rob McClure, his costar in the new Jason Robert Brown-Andrew Bergman musical Honeymoon in Vegas, which opened at the Nederlander in January after a lauded 2013 run at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse.
In the time since McClure and Danza started performing the show — in the roles of Jack Singer, a New York neurotic who makes an impulsive decision to elope to Las Vegas with his fiancée, Betsy Nolan (Brynn O'Malley), and Tommy Korman, the gambler who sees a Jack as an easy mark and takes him for all he's worth during an ill-fated poker game — the pair has become the kind of bros who have each other's back and can finish each other's sentences. The interview quickly turned into wide-ranging conversations on life, luck, and the pursuit of happiness. And these guys wouldn't have it any other way.
Tony, you don't do Broadway musicals very often. How did Jason and Andrew pitch this show to you?
Tony Danza: Jason came into my house in Malibu. This guy shows up, I don't know what the hell's going on. I thought he was gonna make me sing, so I was all nervous. The first thing you realize when you meet Jason is that charm is not gonna work with this guy. [laughs] He's kind of imperious, you know? I mean that as a term of endearment. He sat down at the piano and the first thing he played for me was [Danza's first song in the show] "Out of the Sun." I was just knocked out by the music and Andrew Bergman's script. It was like This can't be true. There's a chance this will go to Broadway?
Rob McClure: It was the first script I had read in maybe five years where I was laughing out loud by myself. Then I get an e-mail with the score and the first songs I heard were "Forever Stars Tonight," and "Isn't That Enough," my act-two ballad. I thought my god.
Did you two know each other before starting rehearsals for the Paper Mill run?
Rob: I mean, I knew who Tony Danza was. But he didn't know me. [laughs] I remember, I came in and I auditioned and Tony read the scenes with me. There was no accompanist in the room and he just started singing "Come to an Agreement" and I loved it so much. I finished the last song, and Tony goes behind the table and is eating a sandwich. They all have that moment where they look at each other and it's like, "Do we need anything else from him?" Tony put down his sandwich and gave me the A-OK sign. I remember going home and calling my mother [to tell her about it].
Tony: I knew when he came in. It was like "Fuhgeddit, this guy is the guy. We gotta have him." Of course, he had another job. He had [the Broadway musical] Chaplin. So I put the kaboykes on that.
Rob: "Kaboykes." That's the technical term.
Rob: It's amazing how fate leads you to the place you're supposed to be. They're all fantastic experiences, but I'm so lucky to be here doing this now.
Is it true you cook for him, too, Tony?
Rob: He cooks for me all the time.
Tony: Well, I gotta take care of this boy.
Rob: I'll show up to the theater with McDonald's chicken nuggets—
Rob: He'll make that noise and go, "WHAT ARE YOU EATING THAT GARBAGE FOR?"
Tony: And it's not like I don't eat. I eat.
Rob: He's also jacked. He can throw down.
Tony: For an old guy.
Tony: Listen, I've got a big birthday coming up. I don't even want to talk about it. Something to do with Medicare.
Does doing musicals make you feel younger?
Tony: I just feel great. Everything is better.
Rob: Do you see how he can't talk without smiling right now?
Tony: It's just what I want to do. One of the things about fame is that you can't be totally unself-conscious. You always think somebody's looking at you. It's a weird conditioning. When you're out there [onstage], that doesn't happen. It's wonderful. You're just in the world of the play. And then every once in a while, a moment of life happens out there, and it just electrifies me.
As poker players in real life as well as onstage, what's the worst thing that's ever happened to you during a poker game?
Tony: With me, it's a fight. Somebody didn't like something and it became giddy gun smoke.
Rob: For me, I helped create this variety show for my friends the Jonas Brothers. Long story short.
Tony: Don't drop names. My friend Bobby De Niro told me that. [laughs]
Rob: Long story short, we went down to Atlantic City to do this variety show, and I wanted to show off but instead lost a bunch of money. I made it up the next night at blackjack though.
Tony: Prove it.
Rob: I got pictures. I left with an orange chip. That's a thousand.
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