Broadway Performers Find Strongest Love Backstage
NEW YORK CITY — During a national tour of the Broadway musical "Grease," summer loving happened so fast — and not just between Danny Zuko and Sandra Dee.
Performer Nick Verina, who starred as T-Bird gang member Sonny, and his castmate Erin Henry, who played good girl Patty Simcox, met and started dating during their 2008 to 2010 national tour.
They said their 18 months together on the road fast-tracked their relationship — as just one of many couples who have found love in the city's unique Broadway-based "showmance" dating scene, where performers, stage hands and other Broadway cast and crew members regularly fall in love during a show's run in a theater or on tour.
"Immediately, Nick and I saw the best and the worst of each other," said Henry, who married Verina in 2011 and is now pregnant with their first child. "When we came back to [New York City] we knew each other in many different scenarios because traveling can also bring out the worst in people."
As the fall Broadway season ramps up with a slew of shows opening in the coming weeks, DNAinfo took a look at the world of Broadway romance.
Those who work on Broadway say their lives are extremely insular, with unusual schedules and an erratic income flow. They say they think nothing of dropping everything for a six-month stint in London's West End. And they admit their stage-filling personality might be overwhelming for some.
All this creates the perfect storm for dating and love to spring out of the concentrated time Broadway people spend together and the understanding each can have of their partner's career.
"I think the biggest thing is they [your Broadway partner] understand the business," said Anastasia Barzee, a Broadway veteran who was in Boston for the summer playing Mrs. Wilkinson in the musical "Billy Elliot." "They understand how crazy it can be, what it means to be at each other's show, the auditioning, the highs and lows."
Barzee is married to Andrew Asnes, a producer for the Off-Broadway production of "50 Shades! The Musical," a parody of E.L. James' S&M romance novel, "50 Shades of Grey."
While he no longer performs, Asnes was still working on Broadway when he met Barzee at a 2006 show. They are now based on the Upper West Side and have two young sons.
"I can be empathic and supporting from a position of knowing what is going on," said Asnes. This means running through script lines late at night or supporting Barzee when she heads to Houston, Texas later this year for a production of "Victor, Victoria."
This summer, the family lived in Boston and their 5-year-old son performed on stage with Barzee. Asnes travels to New York periodically for his current job.
Barzee wasn't always married to someone who understood a performer's life — Asnes is her second husband.
She said her work was too much for her former husband, who was not in the industry. Jealousy and time apart during a breakthrough role for her in London's West End got the better of their union, she said.
"Being with Andrew, it is very nice to know somebody who is going to be OK if I work with a leading man who I once dated, or if the cast gets drinks after the show he is not going to be hiding in the car," she said.
Regina Gatti said she doesn't mind her husband Clifton Samuels kissing other women while in character on stage — or the intense bond Broadway cast members can form while performing in a show. She understands, since she was once a Broadway performer, before taking a job in human resources.
"I can't imagine Cliff being with someone who wasn't in theater and having any idea what his life was about," Gatti said.
Gatti said she met Samuels when tours from two different Broadway shows intersected in Boston in 2008. They married in 2013. The couple lives in Hell's Kitchen.
For Gatti, the real battle is Samuels' on-and-off-again work schedule. She has to head to the office each morning, even if Samuels isn't working and can stay in bed or go to a yoga class.
Still, respect for each other's talents can be a strong bond for Broadway couples, according to Fiona Wilkes and Jason Mills, who live in Park Slope. Wilkes, an original member of the British production of "STOMP," cast her husband in the New York show in 1995. The two have worked together in varying degrees ever since.
"You can learn to drum, but you can't learn to perform," said Wilkes, of how her husband's talents stood out from day one. "You can't learn that 'it' factor."
At least six marriages have come out of the New York City production of "STOMP" since it started in 1995, the couple said.
Watching his wife work as the show's rehearsal director (Wilkes stopped performing full-time in 1999), Mills saw how little impact the high-pressure role had on her character and personality.
"It just confirmed what I had gotten to know about her integrity, character and honesty," he said. "It became clear that [she was] partnership material."