From Showmance to Romance
Jessica Lee Goldyn and Tony Yazbeck, Van Hughes and Leslie McDonel, and Daniel Breaker and Kate Whoriskey share how they made their onstage relationships work offstage.
Jessica Lee Goldyn and Tony Yazbeck
"Something happens when we dance together," says actress Jessica Lee Goldyn about her fiancé Tony Yazbeck, with whom she has starred in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, last year's City Encores! production of On the Town, and the Maine State Music Theater's current revival of Crazy For You. But Goldyn fell for Yazbeck before they even took their first steps together. "I saw him at a photo shoot for A Chorus Line, and there was just like these little hearts around his head. I knew right away," says Goldyn.
However, the pair didn't get engaged during the show's run. The big moment happened at the dinner and dance club Swing 46, while Yazbeck was playing Tulsa in the 2008 revival of Gypsy. "We decided not to get engaged until we were out of the show and we were living our own lives," she says. "Everything is romanticized when you're in a show. You can get fooled like it could be real, but it's really not. It happens a lot."
The pair now lives together in Hell's Kitchen, but they won't be there together much in the coming months. After Crazy For You closes, Yazbeck will go to the Pittsburgh CLO to star in Barry Manilow's Copacabana and then to Chicago for the Goodman Theatre's production of Animal Crackers, while Goldyn is still seeking her next job. Still, the couple will never go more than two weeks without seeing each other. "Working on Broadway you have to set your priorities straight," says Goldyn. "This is our business and we are so passionate about it, but our priority is with each other and making it work."
Actor Van Hughes, who plays the teenaged Josh (and other ensemble roles) in the hit Broadway musical 9 to 5, and actress Leslie McDonel were simply "after-show drinking buddies" during the national tour of Hairspray until Hughes made a stealth romantic advance. As McDonel recalls the encounter: "It was like 'Why is my homie Van holding my hand? Weird.' Then, three hours later, we were kissing on the street." Yet, even after that kiss, they kept their relationship under wraps. "I thought we were kind of above the nonsense that can go on with inter-cast dating," says Hughes. "It was spicier as a secret, too."
The duo's romance lasted after they took separate jobs, and they recently endured a lengthy separation when McDonel joined the national tour of Legally Blonde. "I would tell him 'come out, I'll pay for everything!' says McDonel. "He saved my life a few times while I was out there in the middle of nowhere." And back in New York, Hughes did the legwork of finding their new apartment while she was on the road. "He did good," says McDonel, who left Legally Blonde just in time for the opening night of 9 to 5.
Since Hughes looks younger than his real age of 26 -- and often gets cast in adolescent roles like Josh -- McDonel (who is 28) knows some people look askance at them. "I usually feel like a child molester, because he's always playing a 16-year-old or something," McDonel laughs. Still, they are happily spending their newfound time together challenging each other to games of Dr. Mario and playing in their local band, Favorite Son. "We're a brand name. We don't focus on the differences, but on the we," says Hughes in mock seriousness. "Yeah, just like David and Posh," quips McDonel.
Nonetheless, the riotous atmosphere is an improvement over the period when Breaker was playing The Youth in Broadway's Passing Strange, which earned him a 2008 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. "My character was dealing with death and isolation, and I would bring him home with me once in awhile," admits Breaker. "Kate would ask, 'Do you want a cupcake?' And I'd respond 'What does it matter Kate? It's just going to die in my stomach anyways."
Breaker first met Whoriskey when he auditioned for the Playwrights Horizons' production of Lynn Nottage's Fabulation, or the Re-education of Undine. "He charmed Lynn and I. We would watch him and say 'He's so funny!'" recalls Whoriskey, who gave him a role in the show. For their first date -- which took place after the show had closed -- Breaker made Whoriskey a peach and blackberry cobbler at her apartment. And even pre-parenthood, the couple's idea of a big night out was having a nice glass of wine and a cupcake from Chikalicious, their favorite neighborhood bakery. "If anyone's wondering how relationships work out, tell them it's sugar products and alcohol," advises Breaker.