When Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise first met, they shared an animal attraction — literally. It was 1984 and Mann was dressed as the rambunctious tiger cat Rum Tum Tugger in the hit musical Cats, while d'Amboise was stepping in for the sleek Siamese, Cassandra. From the minute Mann saw the legendary Jacques d'Amboise's daughter dance, there was an instant connection. It took them a few years — and a little less fur — to become an actual couple, but now they have two kids (Josephine, 13 and Shelby, 12), and continue to work together: falling in love all over again as costars in the 2013 revival of Pippin and running Triple Arts, their summer intensive theatre school with sessions in North Carolina (where Mann is a professor at Western Carolina University) and New York. They truly have mated for life.
For this latest installation of A Fine Showmance, d'Amboise and Mann talk about making out backstage at the Winter Garden Theatre, those sexy cat leotards and never going onstage mad at each other — especially when one is throwing knives.
You have worked together both on stage and as the founders of Triple Arts. Is it harder to do one than the other, as a couple?
CD: Teaching is a lot tougher. Onstage you're just doing your job. We just do what we've been doing our whole lives, and that's all we have to focus on. With Triple Arts we're running a whole program. We have to figure out who's getting paid. Who's doing what. What we're going to choreograph. What are we going to direct. What the show going to be. Who we're going to use. You have to really get along to be able to agree on every aspect. It's a lot of work, but we love it. It's like going to bootcamp. You can't really do anything else, so we're with each other all the time, and it's good. Right honey?
TM: I just agree with everything that she says.
That's smart! What tips do you have for other couples who are in the business and working together?
CD: I don't have any advice, but I think it's really helped us to be in the same career, because we both understand what we need to do. We both want to help each other in our careers, so if one of us has to go away and do a job for six months, the other person understands. In most marriages that doesn't work as well, so I think it's a good thing.
TM: Ultimately you get to a point where you understand that it's a partnership. It's a partnership about family. It's a partnership about being in the same business together, and working together. The basis of this partnership is respect and love and the ability to agree to disagree, but also pick your battles, and at the end of the day you're just happy to be working with each other. Once you've got children involved it becomes a much more tight-knit solidified relationship, and like Charlotte has said, because we're both in the business we understand what it feels like, and what you have to do sometimes. People used to always say, "Don't date anybody in the business." And I was like, "Why wouldn't I? It's the only person I'm hanging around all day long, and they know exactly how I feel, because I know exactly how they feel."
Do you remember your first official date?
TM: I don't think we ever dated.
CD: I don't think we ever dated. We just made out in the tunnels of Cats.
TM: It was never formal because we were always working together.
CD: I remember us going to lunch once between shows.
TM: I don't even remember that.
CD: Oh God, I remember it. It was in between shows and I think you said, "Do you want to have lunch together?" You and I had lunch together a couple times. I was so excited, but it wasn't really a date. It was just as friends.
TM: Well I must have thought of it as a date.
CD: Maybe, I don't know.
Did you both know right away that something was going to happen?
CD: It was like love at first sight.
TM: Talent is really sexy. I tell this story all the time, but I remember watching Charlotte — she was coming into the company after we'd been open for about a year. She was taking over for the role of Cassandra, and she came in for her put-in rehearsal. I watched her do it, and I thought, "Wow she's really good," but then I was sitting in the wings watching her dance "The [Jellicle] Ball" that night, in her first show on Broadway, and I had never seen anybody have that much abandonment, yet all that technique, and ability, and storytelling, and emotion as a dancer. It was just electric. She just came off on the stage with so much power and grace. I remember going, "Oh my gosh, I don't think I'll ever be that talented, but maybe I can date it?"
I wonder if your cat suits helped at all? Those were pretty revealing.
CD: It's so funny. I always talk about how I met my husband with cat makeup on. How absurd is that? It's so funny to me now. When I see a picture of you with that makeup on, it makes me laugh. You were like a grown-up cat. My tiger cat.
TM: All those leotards had great highlighting. I'll leave it at that.
What is the best memory you have shared together in the Broadway community?
TM: For me, it's been all of us in the Broadway community having children. I was just looking at a thing on Facebook today about how difficult it is to have children in our business — well it's difficult for anybody when you have children — but in our business, your career sometimes sends you apart, yet you're together, and we still want to have families. We want to have lives, yet these kind of careers demand so much total focus, so all of our friends having children over the last 15, 20, 30 years are the most special moments.
Do you have other Broadway families that you hang out with, and your kids are friends with their kids?
CD: Yes, there's Mary Ann Lamb, who I grew up doing Broadway with, and Liz Larsen, and their kids, and Rachel Bay Jones, who we did Pippin with — she has a kid the same age. Stephanie Pope. There are a whole bunch, and we all kind of have kids around the same age. It was really fun when we were doing Pippin, because we all had to pull our kids out of school to go up to ART in Cambridge. It was during the Christmas holidays, and our kids were all in the same building where we lived and it was the best time. All the kids were doing gymnastics with the acrobats. They would stay up until eleven or twelve at night, then when they woke up they'd walk downstairs to where they had tutoring in their pajamas, with their stuffed animals. We'd bring them lunch...They were totally on our schedule, and it was so fun.
It seems almost impossible to grow up in that way and not want to do theatre.
TM: You're right. That's all you know…
CD: And it looks like so much fun, but I don't know. They're definitely surrounded by it.
Are they showing any interest yet?
CD: Our daughter Josephine, not really, but [Shelby] does ballet very seriously, and Josephine may end up being a director. I don't know. They love to be around it. It definitely will have an impact somehow on their lives. Hopefully a good one... How do you make time for each other? Do you have date nights?
CD: We're with each other all the time — literally together all the time, and it's difficult. It's kind of nice right now because usually one of us is doing that Broadway schedule and that's rough, but right now we're not. I don't know… We never do date night do we?
TM: I think we've distilled it down, so that there's 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, and a glass of wine together downstairs when everybody's gone to sleep and it's quiet. We kind of sit down and look at one another, and go we're still here — 25 years later.
You've been in several shows together. Have you ever had to go on stage in a fight, but have to try and hide it?
CD: The parts we've played together have never been like, "I love you!" As far as [playing] Fastrada [in Pippin] was concerned, I could have done anything if I was mad, so it sort of worked OK either way.
TM: We had to be very careful doing Pippin. We had to be really nice to each other, because I threw knives at her. I have to say, even if we're fighting, and seriously mad at one another, we've gotten good, over the years, at blowing up and just letting it go. Don't seethe. Don't hang on to it. Let it go. Particularly when you go to walk onstage. That brief distraction makes it all dissipate and go away. Sometimes we don't even remember what we were fighting about.
It's like you have little angry scenes and then the director yells, "Cut!"
TM: Exactly! Thank you. Print. Next. Moving on.
What are your favorite roles that you've watched each other do?
TM: Watching her do Roxie over the years — and this is rare and special, because I've watched her do Roxie since the late '90s and so watching her continue to explore and experiment and try to keep it fresh for herself — I've always been amazed by that.
CD: I would say Les Mis, and the only reason I'm saying that is because I saw him do it recently, but I also remember seeing him do it in '87, very clearly. I also have to say that when we were doing Pippin it was really nice because we hadn't worked together in a long time, and suddenly we were thrown into rehearsals. I remember thinking, "Oh my God. Is this going to be good? We'll be together all day, and then all night. It's just going to be too much of Terry Mann." And then the opposite happened, because it suddenly brought back all of those feelings of, "Oh yeah I remember why I fell in love with you. I remember how great you are, and what a good actor you are." Those feelings came up again, and it was really nice. It was just fun to watch him do his stuff. The years go by and you take our talents for granted. I mean he's seen me do everything, and I've seen him do everything, so nothing really surprises you anymore. You forget what it was that you initially fell in love with, so that was nice.
TM: But I did get a copious amount of notes from my wife. I didn't give her any notes. She was perfect. I've learned that.
CD: I would give him notes all the time.
TM: And I would go, "Yes. Thank you."
CD: I would just give you ideas, honey. Just ideas.
Charlotte, what was it about Terry when you saw him in Cats? Had you heard about him before that?
CD: I was in the first national tour of Cats first, and he was on Broadway. I had broken my hand on the tour, so I took a break and came to see the Broadway show with my broken hand, and everybody was talking about Terry Mann. Everybody loooved Terry Mann: all the girls, all the guys. He was sort of the talk, and I just remember thinking, "God, he's kinda sexy." You were the popular one honey. He was very popular with the men and the women.
Just like Rum Tum Tugger!
CD: He's exactly Rum Tum Tugger.
What is your day-to-day like? Is it all showbiz all the time?
TM: We have a brownstone and we live on the top two floors, and we rent out the rest.
CD: In Harlem, which everybody's moving up to now. We're just hanging on to life.
TM: Most of it is literally about scheduling our kids' days and then, during the school year, getting them up, and getting them to school. Then us trying to go to the gym, trying to get prepared for this gig, or for that job, or that audition. It's just living in New York City. Like any other family. You wouldn't know we were in show business if you walked into our house, because we have no show business memorabilia anywhere. We have no posters, nothing.
CD: We're kind of normal. Our kids rule everything ultimately. They rule the house.
Terrence, were you intimidated when you first met Charlotte's dad, the legendary dancer, Jacques d'Amboise?
TM: I remember I was going to North Carolina School of the Arts in 1972, and Jacques d'Amboise came down to teach a master class. We had been studying him in classes there, and I always saw pictures of him in dance books with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, so I knew his legacy. One day I was walking down the hall getting ready to go to class, and the door opened at the end of the hall. It was a sunny day and this big beam of sunshine came in through the door and this figure started walking down the hall. He was huge and he had boots on, so he was very echoey coming down the hall. When he turned the corner I saw that it was Jacques d'Amboise. He looked like a Greek god. He was gorgeous: tall and chiseled with black hair. I was the only one in the hall — this little 19-year-old kid — and he walked up to me, looked down and said, "Hey," and I said, "Yes, sir?" and he said, "Where's the bathroom?" So when Charlotte was coming into the company, and I heard that she was Charlotte d'Amboise, I said, "Oh, wow, Jacques' daughter!" I remember leaving the theatre the night she saw the show with her broken hand. She was leaning against the wall, kind of looking down and I walked by and said, "Hey," and she didn't say anything.
CD: I was playing it cool.
TM: She was just looking at the floor like, "Yeah? Who are you?"
CD: I think he was just upset that I didn't talk about how good his performance was.
TM: Why didn't she treat me like a rock star? Come on! And the rest is history.