Payday is always a good day, but for Broadway vets Marc Kudisch and Shannon Lewis it holds a special place in their hearts. They officially met while standing in line at the Actors Credit Union on a Friday morning, checks in hand. With money to burn, the Fosse dancer hopped on the back of the current Hand to God star's motorcycle and went on a fabulous first date at the South Street Seaport. 10 years later they were married and the rest, as they say, is history.
Both Lewis and Kudisch are big parts of the Broadway community, having made their Main Stem debuts back in the '90s. They have 22 Broadway shows between them but have never been in the same cast. Although they have yet to be seen onstage together, they'll be a regular sight on the red carpet this spring. As the 2014-15 Broadway season reaches a fever pitch, the couple is looking forward to catching up with friends in the theatre community at the many opening night parties and events including Kudisch's opening for Hand to God, a new play in which he plays a pastor who directs a Christian puppet ministry. For the latest installment of "A Fine Showmance," the longtime couple talked about their impressive Broadway legacies, tying the knot during preview performances and falling in love before direct deposit.
One thing that really struck me about you two is that your PlaybillVault pages are very extensive and almost the same length. You have both been in so many great shows!
Marc Kudisch: Well, you can't be in so many shows and have all of them be good. Some of them closed pretty quickly… but I say that if you've been in a show, once or twice, that you'll be proud of for the rest of your career and that 30 years down the line is still being revived, that's an actor's dream and I think both of us have had that good fortune.
Shannon Lewis: It also shows that we are really members of this community. It's one thing to do a couple of Broadway shows and then go on your merry way, but we've been lucky enough to be a part of the Broadway community for a long period of time. Through flops and hits and all those things you really do develop strong relationships, almost like family, with people who are around a lot in the Broadway scene. And now I'm starting to have some great opportunities to choreograph, so it's sort of further deepening those relationships. It's sort of the natural progression that happens after having worked on Broadway for 20 years. You want to continue to be creative so you move into other parts of the business.I remember each one of those shows very fondly. It's kind of weird to see your whole life on a page like that.
Throughout all of those years in the community together had you guys heard of each other before you actually met?
MK: Yeah, it's a small community. She had been involved in workshops of Fosse and I remember when she got to town everybody was talking about her. I saw her do a presentation.
SL: There is this great choreographer named David Marquez who I worked with a lot around the time when I was doing my first Broadway show, Crazy For You. He was newly repped by William Morris and they were trying to get the word out about him so they hired a bunch of dancers to put on an original showcase of his work and invited all of the most important people in town to come and see it. That's the first time I ever met Marc.
MK: There she was in the center of the piece and I remember watching the show and thinking to myself, "She's amazing, she's incredible, but boy do I feel bad for the guy that's with her."
MK: Because she was so focused, and unlike a lot of people that I see she wasn't drawing attention to herself, but to the work that she was doing. That was intimidating and I just thought, "Man, I can't even imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship with her."
SL: To be honest, I really wasn't in many relationships back then. My focus was on my career and I was very clear about that. When Marc and I met, I had great respect for him as a performer. He was the big man about town. I think he was playing Gaston in Beauty and the Beast at the time and he drove a motorcycle all over town, so when I met him he was very nice and very complimentary, but I thought he was going to be this jerk because he would sort of strut around and he had this facade of this young guy. I was like, "Okay, whatever," and we really didn't cross paths again for eight or 10 years.
How did you reconnect?
SL: Remember back in the day when you would get your paycheck on a Thursday and on Friday you'd physically have to go to the bank and cash it? Well, on Friday mornings all of Broadway would be in line at the Actor's Federal Credit Union to put their check in the bank, so you would get to catch up and hobnob with everyone and that's where I officially met Marc: standing in line at the Actor's Federal Credit Union. We hadn't seen each other in a long time and we were happy to see each other and interested in what the other one was doing. We had both been single for a few months, and we were a little older and wiser. We started talking and we ended up walking all the way uptown. We still hadn't finished our conversation so we finally said, "Maybe we should continue this over dinner?"
And you had just cashed your paychecks!
SL: That's right! At least I knew he could pay for dinner.
Where did you go on your first date?
MK: We went to the South Street Seaport on my motorcycle, which is the first and last time she's ever been on it.
SL: I don't like motorcycles.
MK: So we started seeing each other, but I was still trying to figure out past relationships, so after a couple of months I said, "Listen I really like you, but there's still some things I need to figure out," so we went our separate ways for another couple of months and Shannon started dating someone else. Then I got a sense of closure on where I was and then…
SL: Wait, let me tell this part. I tell this part way better than you do. I really had sort of written him off, like "Well he's a nice guy but we'll just be friends and that's that." We hadn't seen each other for a couple of months and on Christmas morning I ended it with this other person. It was horrible and I went through the holidays feeling really sad and blue. Then the day after New Year's I had to go to the bank and put my paycheck in, and who was at the bank putting his paycheck in?
SL: Yes! It was Marc Kudisch. I was like, "Oh God are you kidding me? I can't believe this is happening." I wanted to get out of there because I had been hurt and I didn't want to be hurt again, but he was like, "No, no. I've been wanting to call you. I'm so glad to see you!" He talked me into going out to lunch with him and 10 years later, here we are.
It sounds like to have a successful relationship he just needed to be getting a paycheck!
SL: That's right! It was a very interesting way to start.
MK: But that's the thing that was unique to our relationship as opposed to a lot of other people in this business. We did not meet on a show. It was not a showmance. We actually didn't end up genuinely working together until two years ago when she was the associate choreographer on [the new musical] Somewhere in Time.
SL: And we had a great time! We loved working together like that.
MK: It was interesting because she was behind the table and I was one of the leads of the show, so we're in the room at all times together, but we work very hard to keep our business independent of the other. It wasn't like we would come home and dish about all of it.
SL: We're actually very good at keeping things really separate. We work together easily like that, and let me just say it's great to be able to give your husband notes.
MK: Now, whether or not they take the notes is a whole other thing. But seriously, it kind of made other people really nervous. The rest of the creatives were all wondering if we were talking about stuff because you know when you're developing a show you have to have the freedom to be able to express yourself, so there's a lot of stuff we couldn't share, but we're very professional. She's really good at that and really good at choreography.
SL: Thanks, honey.
I wonder if it helps that you guys met when you were a little older?
SL: We didn't meet when we were 20 and just starting out. We both had really established careers and were well known in the community before we started having a relationship so it already felt like we were separate entities that were teamed together but not because we were coming up the ranks together. It was a different dynamic for us.
You got married while Shannon was in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway and Marc was in previews for the Off-Broadway musical Blue Flower. Was that a difficult to balance a wedding and the shows?
SL: We had been together about nine years before we even got engaged. We talked about eloping just because it would be easier on our schedule, but our families seemed to really want to be a part of it. And honestly, I think getting married while being in shows felt very normal to us. We can't ever predict when we're going to be working or not working so it's actually good to be on a long-term contract because then you can actually plan a vacation. If you're not working you never know if something is going to come up. Since Marc was in previews that was a bit of a stressful situation just because the show had been changing quite a lot, but it was super fun for me. I'm not really a girly girl at all but I had found this beautiful wedding dress and one day between shows, a couple days before I got married, I debuted my dress for all the girls in the dressing room, and we had a screaming girls moment. A lot of those girls are my dear, dear friends and some came from other shows to come and see it. It was really fun and then they threw me a lovely shower before we went and got married.
MK: Shannon largely planned when the wedding was going to be because she was in a long-running show and then I got offered The Blue Flower at Second Stage. Part of the negotiations was that I would need to take time off for my wedding. A lot of people will run off on their day off and get married. We have several friends who did that and then they plan to go on their honeymoon later but three or four years later they still haven't gone. I missed five previews which does not happen, but thankfully Second Stage was very understanding that life can take precedence over work sometimes. I have to say it was not stressful. It was a nice break from the work that we were in and we were with our family and friends down in Key West. We love Key West, and we were able to stay a couple days after we got married as much as we were getting pressure from my show to come back a day early, but it was really nice to spend that time even in the middle of everything.
Shannon did you choreograph your first dance?
SL: No, honestly we really didn't want it to be a big production. We walked ourselves down the aisle. He didn't have a best man or anything like that. We got married on this gorgeous gazebo dock over the ocean which was absolutely stunning and then we walked to this restaurant which was right on the beach and had a beautiful catered dinner. We just wanted it to be really relaxed and really personal.
There are a lot of opening nights coming up this month including a party for Marc's show Hand to God. Do you guys have fun going to those together?
SL: I think they're fun. We know so many people, and it's actually a chance to get to see a lot of people that we never get to see. I like it when it's not my own opening night because when it's your opening night you feel overwhelmed with performing and getting ready. I mean it's fun and it's celebratory but when it's someone else's opening night you can kind of leisurely get into a beautiful dress and it's more of a fun, frivolous kind of thing. When Marc has one I'm always a little bit nervous for him. I don't know why I get nervous for you.
MK: I don't know why you get nervous for me, either.
Shannon, do you get more nervous than Marc does?
SL: Marc doesn't get nervous. Maybe nervous isn't right word… I have an anticipation. I don't really get nervous for opening nights of my own but other people's I do. I don't know why. I definitely love seeing Marc on stage, but opening nights just have an energy about them. You want the show to do well, and you want everyone to be the best and I think maybe that's where it comes from.
What are your favorite roles that you've seen each other do?
SL: That's a hard question — like picking your favorite child. What he's doing now in Hand to God is amazing to see. He plays a pastor and that couldn't be further from who he is in life. There's a subtleness with what he's doing in this show and with this character that I don't get to see very often in the stuff that he does, so I am really enjoying that. And then of course I think we met when Marc was [playing Mr. Trevor Graydon in] Thoroughly Modern Millie, and that was a really fun thing to see Marc do because it's such an iconic role now.
MK: My wife, she did, what was the name of the Bacharach show?
SL: Don't bring up the Bacharach show!
MK: I'm bringing it up: The Look of Love. What we consider to be flops in the business is usually based on the financial so past that there were some amazing performances in that show and it was choreographed by Ann Reinking. Shannon had this one particular dance that was really gorgeous. We just bumped into somebody the other day who mentioned it to her. She did these leaps and then she just disappeared. It was kind of amazing and sort of a risky moment. It was gorgeous. And obviously I loved her in Fosse which was where everyone really discovered her.
What do you guys like to do that's not work related?
SL: We're big into yoga, and we love doing it together. Then afterwards we like to have a gorgeous brunch.
MK: What we like is to have time away from work to just be normal people. We love to go to Canada to see her family. They have this beautiful lake cottage about three hours north of Toronto so we go as often as we can, but I have to say that to some degree we are homebodies and proud of that. Our apartment is gorgeous. We live on the North end of Central Park, and we like to go down to the park. We love to cook at home, and it's just nice to be quiet because our lives are so full as performers. It always amazes me that people think actors are people who live crazy lives. We're adults; we need to conserve our energy.
SL: We had those years in our early 20s going to clubs and parties and stuff and that was really fun, but we're not there anymore. We like to be home, making dinner and going to bed at 10.