When McGinnis' Daddy Long Legs co-star Paul Alexander Nolan left in October, the team realized her perfect match had been sitting in the audience all this time. As the new Jervis and Jerusha, real-life husband and wife Halpin and McGinnis are discovering what it's like to live and work together in the two-person show, now at the Davenport Theatre in New York City. The adorable couple dishes on the presidential campaign that brought them together, the whirlwind emotions that come with co-starring, and their new (and strange) rule to separate work and play.
Congratulations on your first few performances together! What has the experience been like so far? Megan, is it different acting opposite Adam than with the other men who have played Jervis?
MM: It's been so fun watching Adam — well, listening to him is more like it, since most of my show takes place in front of him — grow in the role, even over the first five shows. This show has to be so in tune with each audience, so we are both having a lot of fun listening to each other and to each crowd, and fine tuning what we do. As far as how different it is with my husband playing Jervis, I think there is an automatic safety I feel with him beside me. That takes time to develop with each co-star. I've been lucky to have that with all of them, but this one just came without the work! Well, I suppose seven years of being together is the work it took!
AH: It was very emotional for me, as I expected. As soon as we turned to each other to sing the final song, I was a puddle of messy tears! It's become less of an ugly cry since then.
Do you find performing together as an onstage couple romantic? Is it a turn on?
MM: The first act we are pretty separated, but when it all comes to a head in the second act, it's really overwhelming to look in Adam's eyes!
AH: I do think it's romantic, and deeply special. I feel fortunate to be able to share the stage with my wife eight times a week, telling this beautiful story. It absolutely makes things interesting! I imagine that many actors in relationships would jump at the opportunity to do this. But remember [to have] a limited contract. You do want the [real] relationship to survive after all!
Were you worried about the effect auditioning for the show would have on your relationship?
AH: We talked in great detail about whether or not it would be a good thing for our relationship. Ultimately, I decided to go in, give it a shot and see what happens.
Was the audition more difficult due to the fact that you knew the show so well?
AH: Approaching it as an actor was very difficult at first because I always got to watch it and let the emotions and the story wash over me. As an actor you have a very different approach. I have to ignore the way the songs and the story make me feel and just be this wonderful man, this wonderful character, so it was definitely a challenge. I've never known a piece so intimately, and then had to insert myself in it. I've seen it 50 or 60 times — more than I've seen any other show. Megan has done it all over the country and in London. [The show] sort of outlined our entire relationship; she started the show in 2009, soon after we started dating.
MM: I remember I was visiting you in Arizona when you were on tour with Rent in 2009 and you were out at your two-show day. I was in your hotel room and I was reading the script for Daddy Long Legs because my audition was the next week. When you came home that night I was like ten pages from the end of the script, and I was thinking, "No, I'm almost done!" I was just sitting there in your room, crying.
AH: We were only dating four or five months at that point.
How did you guys first meet?
MM: We actually met in 2004, which was years before we started dating. Adam, you should tell this part of the story since I don't remember it.
AH: That's true. That's the one leg up I will always have on her: I loved her first. I will always use that as the nail in the coffin in an argument. When I was in college at Rutgers, I went to see a friend of mine who was doing a benefit concert reading of this musical called Illyria, which was Shakespeare's Twelfth Night set to music. Megan was playing Viola. She was also Belle, in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway at the time, and the second Megan opened her mouth, I was completely and utterly transfixed. I was like, "Who is this girl?" At the afterparty I introduced myself to her. We talked for about ten minutes, and she said she had gone to Columbia and that she had been in Parade. I was geeking out, and she was totally hot. Then, at the end of the night, I went out with my friend and some other people, and I could not get her off my mind. The seed had been planted, but the funny thing is (we talked about it years after we started to get to know each other as friends) she had no recollection of this at all. She does not remember meeting me — but when you do a concert or a show your mind is all over the place. You're not going to remember some ten-minute meeting of some fanboy. But I have not forgotten that moment. There also may have been some stalking on the Internet. Soon after that she went on to do Little Women and I was illegally downloading files of her singing — totally geeking out.
MM: We officially re-met in 2008 when Adam was doing Glory Days. I went to see a dress rehearsal and we talked in the lobby. Afterwards we became Facebook friends and then in October of that year we found ourselves at an audition for a tour of Fiddler on the Roof. It was one of those auditions where you're waiting for hours because they're matching you up with other people. We actually never went in the audition room together, but we were in the hallways of Pearl Studios for probably four hours just talking and getting to know each other. Later that week I was posting on Facebook about volunteering for the Obama campaign, because it was 2008 when he was first running, and he messaged me that he'd been thinking about volunteering, as well. We ended up driving to Pennsylvania to knock on doors four days before the election. The night that Obama was elected Adam asked me out on our first date.
That's so cute! Did either one of you get the role in Fiddler?
But it sounds like the audition cemented your friendship.
MM: I imagine if one of us had actually gotten the role it would have not been great for our relationship because one of us would have left right after that. Although Adam did get the Rent tour three months later, so he did leave, but we had two months of dating and we knew that it was something that we wanted to pursue.
Where did you go for your actual first date?
MM: Gosh, I can't remember where our actual first date was. We ended up meeting for a drink at House of Brews right? We have other important memories. For some reason we remember the first day that we kissed; strangely enough, it was before a presentation of another Paul Gordon musical. He was doing a presentation of Emma at the Roundabout Rehearsal Studios and I had invited Adam to go see it with me. Our first kiss was in the lobby of that building before we saw the presentation.
Have you ever performed together in a show before this?
MM: Yes, but not until after we got married. We got married in September of 2013, and we ended up doing a Paul Gordon / John Caird musical called Little Miss Scrooge at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, where [the team] started Daddy Long Legs. We played the Cratchits, but we only really had one scene together. Then the following March we did a new musical called Triangle at Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City, but again we didn't have a lot of scenes together. This is the first time we'll truly be on stage together.
Adam, you had said you needed to think about whether or not taking this role would be good for your relationship. What was were the pros and cons you weighed when this opportunity came up?
AH: I definitely said "No" at first. I did not want to mix work and play. It's good to keep certain things separate and maintain our individuality. That was my big initial con to it, but for the pros: It's really fun to make art and tell stories with people that you care about...and, ultimately, it's such a beautiful show. One of the reasons I didn't want to do this at first is because I thought, "Surely there are people that are better than me for this." I'm so protective of the show and I kept hoping they'd find someone because I just want the best for the show. But then I felt like, "Well, dude it's your turn. You've got to step up."
MM: I was able to sit in on the auditions and it was so clear to the whole team how wonderfully perfect he was for the job. Adam couldn't see it, because he'd been the audience member for so long.
AH: I'm still putting a lot of pressure on myself — I think in a worthwhile way — to become this man and to separate the viewership from the ownership. It's really one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Megan, was it hard for you to be unbiased in the auditions?
MM: I left the room when Adam auditioned. I didn't want to put that pressure on him, and the team did not discuss Adam's audition with me. We basically discussed everyone as if Adam hadn't auditioned. Then I would leave and they had the whole Adam discussion without me, but yes, I found myself very unbiased. I just wasn't considering him for it in my mind.
Did you get to share the news with Adam?
MM: A couple of days after the audition our director John [Caird] called me and said, "We decided that we want to offer the job to Adam, but we want to clear it with you first," and I said, "Let me just have one more conversation with Adam to make sure this is good for us." I guess in a way I told him that he got it, because we had that final discussion about whether it would be okay for the marriage.
AH: No matter how compatible you are and wonderful someone is, you need breaks from people and you need your individuality. I do miss her when she's away at the theatre, but in a two-person show there's nowhere to hide. The rule we established is that we're not going to be traveling to work together. I think it's going to be crucial.
How is that going to work?
MM: John suggested that we don't go to work together and we don't leave work together. He also suggested that we don't talk about work, but that's ridiculous.
AH: I was like, "I'm sorry have you met Megan McGinnis? Of course she's going to talk about it."
MM: Going to work separately is going to be super easy. I usually get to the theatre an hour and half before the show anyways, but I don't know how leaving work separately is going to work. We haven't really fully convinced ourselves that that one's going to happen.
AH: There is something about going home separately and being like, "Hi honey, I'm home!" and having that preparation and that downtime for yourself before and after. We'll give it a shot, and we'll see if traveling separately just seems silly.
MM: John calls it a palette cleanser.
Watch Megan sing from Daddy Long Legs here: