A wise middle-aged sage once sang: "We come together 'cuz opposites attract." That may be true, but to ensure long-lasting love, it might be better to have a few things in common — or in the case of Rob McClure and Maggie Lakis, almost everything.
The actors and puppeteers, who have been married for five and a half years, are self-described nerds — staying up all hours of the night to play video games and planning their honeymoon around a tour of "Lost"'s filming locations. Speaking of honeymoons, McClure is currently earning rave reviews as the hapless groom-to-be Jack Singer in the new Broadway musical Honeymoon in Vegas, while Lakis, who starred in the John Doyle-directed Allegro at CSC this past fall, is preparing for a production of Duncan Sheik's new Broadway-bound musical Because of Winn Dixie at the Delaware Theatre this spring.
Before a recent Friday night performance of Honeymoon in Vegas, the couple is hanging out in McClure's dressing room at the Nederlander Theatre where they talk about splitting their time between Philadelphia and New York, going on the Avenue Q tour together with two cats and learning life lessons from McClure's Honeymoon costar Tony Danza.
Unlike Rob's newlywed character Jack in Honeymoon, you guys have been married for over five years. How did you meet?
ML: We actually met doing a production of Grease in New Jersey. He was Doody and I was Frenchy.
RM: It was very classy. It was at this place called the Lenape Performing Arts Center in Marlton New Jersey back in '05. How did you go from castmates to more?
ML: We played opposite each other, so we started out as friends. I actually had a boyfriend at the time — a very serious boyfriend — but it had kind of run its course. I knew that Rob had a crush on me, because he would say things like, "If you were single I would marry you," so I invited him to dinner one night and said, "I feel like there's something here and I could maybe make a change in my life, but I just want to check and make sure I'm not imagining things." He said, "I'm not going to tell you what to do, but know that I'm very interested." So I made myself available.
RM: It was super brave. She just laid it out on the table. I was so taken aback. I did say, "I'm not going to tell you to become single, but if you were single, I'm in," and there it went.
That takes a lot of guts. That's awesome that it worked out.
ML: I just realized that he was a catch and other girls were eyeing him. I wanted to be with him. He was too cute.
RM: It was a fine Jersey romance. At the time, I had my first car, which was a Z28 Camaro. Oh God. It was as Jersey trash as you get.
Great visual! How long were you dating before you went on the Avenue Q tour together?
RM: I was in Avenue Q on Broadway and we had been dating about two years when they asked me to join the tour. I was heartbroken, but it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. As I was planning on going out on the road Maggie was like, "Do you think they need anyone?" She had just done a puppet show at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia and was really good at it, so she sent in her stuff, and without them knowing that we were together we both booked it. It was really lucky.
What was it like being on tour together?
ML: We say it was a big marriage tester, because we were traveling together, working together, living together… but it worked out great.
RM: Yeah if you're going to kill each other, it's going to be in airport security with five suitcases and two cats for the 60th time that year. If you can get through that, you're good to go.
Right! But I bet it's really fun to visit so many new places with the person you love.
ML: Absolutely. We both hadn't traveled a lot before, so it was a great opportunity to see the country and go to places that you probably wouldn't choose to go and really find some wonderful surprises along the way. We had such a great time. We made traditions that forced us to go out and explore every city.
RM: We're such nerds. I love it. You know those machines that give you a little souvenir of a squished penny? We had to get one for every week on tour, so we hunted down these places that have squished penny machines and ended up finding these little treasures wherever we went.
Do you have a favorite city you created a special memory in?
RM: We have so many amazing ones, but the Pacific Northwest was really beautiful. We had a really good time in Seattle and Portland. We both love fishing, so on my birthday Maggie surprised me and we went out to Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle and went fishing. There were bald eagles flying around — that was a specifically fantastic memory.
ML: I hadn't been to the deep South before, and I loved it. I realized that if I lived down there I'd be 500 pounds, because they know how to eat.
RM: I never would have predicted that we'd have so much fun doing Avenue Q in the Bible Belt.
You got engaged on tour too, right?
ML: That's a cute story. He did very well.
RM: Well, like I said we're both big nerds, and Maggie is obsessed with "E.T." — to the point where she can't watch it without crying. It's like her favorite movie that she can't watch.
ML: I haven't seen it since I was a child because I start crying from the moment they leave him behind. I just cry the whole movie.
RM: She has an E.T. doll from 1982 without an original stitch on it. It's like this little turd of a thing — it's so cute. When we played Philadelphia, which is sort of central to both of our families, we had 85 friends and family come to see the show that night and they all were coming to an engagement party after the show that Maggie didn't know about. I had left a Reese's Pieces trail from Maggie's dressing room to the stage where the little turd E.T. doll was sitting holding the ring box.
ML: Don't call him a turd!
RM: I had the sound designer hit John Williams' flight music, and she cried. It was really great.
ML: He said I screamed and I didn't believe him, so he showed me the video tape, and I did scream.
That was a great set up!
RM: Thanks. I know I'm with the right person if that engagement worked. It wouldn't go over so well with the wrong person.
Where did you get married?
ML: We got married just outside Philadelphia at this place called the Marion Tribute House.
RM: It was like a 1930s big band wedding. It was really fun.
That's awesome! Can you swing dance?
RM: We attempt.
ML: It's just for fun. We're not trying to put on a show.
RM: Yeah, I'm not throwing her around, but we're having fun.
Maggie when you decided to audition for the Avenue Q tour after Rob booked it, you ended up getting a role as well, but does it ever get hard when one of you books something and other doesn't?
ML: Of course you'd always love to work together, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. We're lucky that we've gotten the chance a few times and we've always enjoyed it, but you can't only take jobs where you can be together. We don't want to be that couple that's like, "We're a package deal."
RM: That's not in our contract.
ML: You also want to feel like they want you both or else then you feel a little icky about the whole thing, but I'd love to work with him again.
Maggie, have you seen Honeymoon in Vegas a million times?
ML: Oh yes, I've seen it four or five times at Paper Mill and about four or five times on Broadway. I know I'm biased, but it's a fantastic show.
RM: And it really fits us. It's about the crazy, brave things you do to get the one you really want. It's about taking the leap for love, which I was lucky that Maggie did.
Where do you guys live?
ML: We split our time between New York and Philadelphia. We have a house that we own in Philadelphia and we have a friend that lives there so it's not empty when we're not there. We were lucky this fall when we were both working in New York. We got an apartment here and that was really nice to have time together. My show [Allegro at the CSC] closed, at the end of December and now I'm just splitting my time between Philadelphia and here to be a support system for him.
RM: When we were doing Avenue Q we would actually commute everyday — it's a totally feasible thing on the Amtrak train. We really love it in Philly, but when the show's are as demanding as Honeymoon and Allegro were on us it's easier to just get a place up here.
When you're both in shows or when Maggie is in Philly, how do you make sure you have some husband and wife time?
RM: We try to keep the day off as sacred as we can and then when we both get home from the show there's always unwinding time. That usually is made up of video games. Most nights at 1 AM you can find us shooting zombies, or watching "Game of Thrones" or "Lost" reruns. We were both very obsessed with "Lost," to the point of having a piece of the "Lost" airplane wing that we bought at an auction in our apartment.
That's serious. Were you together when "Lost" was on?
ML: Yes, I actually introduced him to it because I lived with a friend and I said, "Once a week you're either not going to see me or you can join us and watch it." It's like I made him a drug addict. He's even pushed it on other people since then. He's become even more fanatical about it then I was.
RM: We planned our entire honeymoon around a trip to Oahu so we could take an eight hour Hummer tour of the filming locations. It's bad.
Was it better than a honeymoon in Vegas?
RM and ML: Oh yeah, it was perfect.
Are there any shows you're obsessed with now?
RM: "Breaking Bad" was big for us. Right now we can't wait for "Game of Thrones" to come back. We're also eagerly awaiting "Better Call Saul."
What if one of you got a role on one of these shows?
RM: Are you kidding? We would freak out.
Rob, has Tony Danza ever give you any marriage advice?
RM: That's so funny. No, but Tony is an amazing dad. Just last night his son and his two grandchildren came to see the show for the first time. Backstage he got a little misty eyed during intermission and he said, "I had a son really early on, and I was worried about how that was all going to pan out. And here I am so many years later, and that kid is bringing his kids to see me on Broadway." It was such a moving thing. He's such a family man. I look up to him a lot for his sense of pride for family and connectivity and that he never forgets where he came from.
Maggie you're going to be staying at your home in Philly full-time when you are starring in Because of Winn Dixie at the Delaware Theatre Company this spring and Rob you'll still be in New York. How do you guys stay close when you're apart?
RM: Skype. There's a whole lot of Skyping and then right after the matinee on Sunday I'll hop on the train to Philly.
ML: Or I'll come up to him. We've all the sudden realized we've been spoiled lately. We've been able to spend so much time together, but it's actually more the norm for us to be somewhat separated and seeing each other once or twice a week, so we'll make it work.
RM: It's the crazy life you sign up for and if you're not OK with the apart time then you're asking one or the other to give up on their own ambitions, and I don't think that's fair. When you want to be an actor you have to go where the work is. We've found ways to be supportive as much as possible when we are apart. It's proof that we love each other when we support one another from afar.
ML: I think it keeps it fresh in a way. You really appreciate each other and the time you do have together and you don't take it for granted. When you can have five minutes to talk or text it's special, so I think it's actually been good for us. I always prefer to be with him, but I think it's made us stronger.
Sunday night must be exciting.
RM: Date night!
What kind of things do you like to do on dates?
RM: We tend to do a lot of brunching. We are brunch hounds. We also like movie dates. There's a lot of diners, a lot of movies. We're simple pleasures people. It doesn't have to be crazy. It could be a "Law and Order" marathon on the couch or it could be dinner or a show. We like to mix it up.
ML: I also like to cook for him, and I always try to have something waiting for him when he comes home when I'm available. It's fun to be able to spoil him, because I don't get to do it that often.
RM: She's such a good cook.
What's your favorite dish that she makes?
RM: Her mom makes this amazing chicken pot pie recipe that she can recreate, and that's pretty darn good.
Do you think it's harder to be in a relationship in which you are both actors?
RM: I think it's ridiculous when people say, "I don't date actors." It's about the right person and no matter what that right person does for a profession they're still going to be the right person. There are level headed actors and outlandish actors and financially responsible actors and financially irresponsible actors…
ML: For awhile I had been one of those people who didn't date other actors because I didn't like my world being so small and being about one thing, but it became difficult. It helps to have a partner who understands what you're going through. They have to understand the choices you are making and how difficult it is. It's really worked out well for us.