These Married Miss Saigon Performers Will Share an Unexpected Broadway Valentine
Minami Yusui and Dan Urness return to a Broadway house that houses special memories.
Actress Minami Yusui and trumpet player Dan Urness, who met in 2006 doing summer stock in Maine, have been married for seven years. But this spring their musical-theater romance will come full circle when they again share a theater — this time on Broadway in the upcoming revival of Miss Saigon.
"It's crazy. Every time I tell my friends, they're like, 'You should write that down,' " says Yusui. And as the colorful coincidences of the pair's love story continue to pile up, it's easy to see why they feel that way. Since those vernal days in Maine, Yusui and Urness have weathered several years in opposite hemispheres and even more with opposite schedules, but they've also experienced the joys of an impromptu backstage wedding reception and a surprise Valentine's Day reunion. And this Valentine's Day will be another in a relationship chock-full of happy accidents: February 14 is the first day Miss Saigon's team will be rehearsing in their home at the Broadway Theatre — the same space where the couple celebrated their wedding day.
What's your story?
Minami: I was born and raised in Japan, and I've worked both in Japan and in America, but I made my Broadway debut last year in The King and I. I've been in the business for like ten years and this is a miracle, after ten years, being able to work together.
Dan: I'm originally from Wisconsin but I moved to New York for graduate school. Between my two years of grad school I got a job playing up at Maine State Music Theater, where we met.
Minami: I was a performance intern, and I was there for the whole summer. And he was there for the whole summer as an orchestra member. We were always around the theater working, building sets and stuff. We'd see each other all the time because we all just hung out in the park.
Dan: The big advantage I had over the interns was that I lived close and I had a kitchen so I made some lobster and invited her over.
Minami: I love lobster, so I was like, "Oh yeah, that's amazing." So that was the bait: lobster. [laughs]
Dan: It was a fun summer.
Minami: And then the next year they knew we were together so they brought both of us back up to Maine together. I was promoted from intern to apprentice and then they put us up in the same housing even though usually actors and musicians are separate. We owe a lot to Maine State Music Theatre.
Dan: After that, we came back to New York together and Minami ended up getting a job with a musical-theater company in Japan.
Minami: They take Broadway theater, Tony Award-winning musicals, and translate them into Japanese, so I did Wicked in Japanese and all this crazy stuff.
Dan: She was assistant director for Spring Awakening.
Minami: I got to translate the book and lyrics — in a team. It was an awesome experience. They sent me to London to write down all the choreography and direction and set it up with JoAnn Hunter as a supervisor. That was really cool. So we did long distance for three years, halfway around the world. But I missed performing, and I still had my dream to be on Broadway. So I finally listened to my heart and decided to just go for it.
When did you decide to get married?
Dan: When I was visiting Minami in Japan, we kind of pragmatically decided that it was time to get married. I started Promises, Promises [on Broadway] shortly after that, and that's when we actually got married.
We were starting previews, so we went to city hall. And the day before we got married, they said, "Oh yeah, there's a rehearsal tomorrow at three-o'clock." "All right, it looks like it's gonna be a morning wedding." So we got married, we had lunch, I went to rehearsal. Some people [at Promises, Promises] asked, "Oh yeah, do you think Minami could come by at five and we could have a toast for you guys?" So she came over and they had organized and planned a whole reception and cake and champagne. So the funny part is when you look back at the photos, I remember being so happy and really loved by everybody in the theater. Our reception was in the basement, so in the photos, there's all pipes and concrete.
Minami: Construction materials and a Veryfine vending machine. [laughs]
Dan: Minami's father is a kimono artist so she was wearing a beautiful kimono. And the stars of that show were Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth, and when they heard about our wedding they came down, too. We're happy with what we had.
Minami: This was nothing we could have planned.
So is this your first time back together in a show?
Minami: Well, I was on the Mary Poppins national tour and they hired most of the musicians locally, but when we were in Durham, North Carolina, something happened and the trumpet player wasn't available anymore after the second day, and Dan had played the show here on Broadway, so he was familiar with the score. So they asked if he was available and he flew in, and that was on a Valentine's Day. That was a very good Valentine's Day gift. So that was like five shows we got together but [apart from that] this is gonna be our first time.
Dan: It'll be fun to be in the same city with the same schedule.
Minami: When he's working and I'm between shows, I audition, so our clocks are completely opposite. So this is nice to have the show scheduled together.
What are your Valentine's Day plans this year?
Dan: Two years after we got married, we finally took a honeymoon to Barcelona so we're gonna have Spanish tapas.
Minami: I just made a reservation for a dinner…Tuesday's Valentine's Day, right? That's the first day we're going to be in the theater, so Sunday night we have a reservation for a restaurant, a nice dinner together, and knowing that we have Monday off is nice. So that'll be fun. But Tuesday will be just sensible, I think.