It’s a familiar story: The star of the show falls ill and the understudy (Shirley MacLaine, Anthony Hopkins, Sutton Foster… ) is waiting in the wings, ready to make their big break. Lesser known is the tale of Zachary Prince, currently starring as a ever-present priest in the Off-Broadway musical Himself and Nora, about novelist James Joyce and his love life. He stole An American in Paris’ breakout Brandon Uranowitz’s heart when he was his standby in the 2011 jukebox musical Baby It’s You!
Prince and Uranowitz, who will depart An American in Paris (on a date to be announced) to star in the Broadway revival of Falsettos this fall, were up for the same multi-role playing Stanley Greenberg, Murray Schwartz, Johnny Cymbal and a Kingsman in Baby It’s You! Uranowitz snagged the gig, and Prince was cast as his standby. In the five years since, they have had to navigate a relationship while being called in for the same parts, but the difficult career terrain has only made them stronger as actors and as partners.
Did you ever think you’d have a Showmance before you met in Baby It’s You!?
Brandon Uranowitz and Zachary Prince: No.
BU: Before Baby It’s You! started we had both actually made vows to ourselves that we would never ever date anybody in the theatre ever again and then the universe was like, “Just kidding!”
ZP: I remember meeting him at the audition, because we were both auditioning for the same part. I’d never seen him before and I had such a sour attitude about him. Then he ended up getting the role, and I got the standby. I showed up the first day of rehearsal and was like, “Who is this child they gave the part to?” But during the first table read he made choices that I never would have made or thought of, and I was like, “Oh he’s so smart.” From that point on we became fast friends.
BU: We became fast friends, but I immediately wanted to date Zach. Like, immediately. We started texting back and forth about the show and about other things, and we realized we had a very similar sense of humor. I immediately developed an obsession. I didn’t know if the feelings were mutual. This went on for a good month-and-a-half. I would go to rehearsal and try to act cool and then go home and frantically talk to my friends, trying to figure out if Zach felt the same way or not. I turned into a really gross 13-year-old girl.
ZP: Then we went on our first friend date. He invited me to see [the animated film] Gnomeo & Juliet. We sat in the last row, and I remember that we were both making such big efforts not to touch on the armrest. I remember thinking, “There’s a lot of energy right here.” I hated the movie, and I think that made him sad because he enjoyed it for some reason.
BU: Yeah I did. I liked it.
ZP: Then we just kept texting and hanging out. We literally were never not communicating with each other unless we were asleep. We would see each other during rehearsal and then we would text all night. We would text during the show and then after the show. We would text on the way home, and when I’d go walk my dog we’d still be texting. It finally got to the point where I was like, “This is exhausting,” and I sent you a text that said something like, “Are we in love maybe?”
BU: I was like, “AHHHHH” [in singing voice]. Finally!
ZP: And that’s the beginning of the end.
Meanwhile, was Zach planning his Shirley MacLaine moment?
ZP: Ok, so here’s the thing about that, I made it very clear to him early on that I had zero interest in ever going on. He literally had like 20 wigs and a million costume changes in the show…
BU: Like 24 costume changes.
ZP: If I would have ever gone on, it would have been such a crazy stress on the dressers and the stage managers for the show that I basically was like, “Look, I don’t need to have my Broadway moment. If you are not sick please continue doing the show.”
BU: [There was one time during] my big production number in the show, “Louie Louie,” where I rolled my ankle and had to go to physical therapy. Weren’t you texting your mom?
ZP: I literally had my mom talk to him on the phone because she’s a choreographer and dance kinesiologist. I was like, “Tell him he’s okay. Tell him he’s going to be fine.”
BU: Starving Zach of his Shirley MacLaine moment wasn’t an issue. The issue was more about us being the same person. That was something that I was more trying to cope with. We had both taken vows to never date another actor, and then the universe was like, “No you’re going to date an actor playing the same role.”
ZP: Yeah, you’re going to date the person that you will always be auditioning with forever more. That was the other thing about [our relationship] that made it unique. It really wasn’t a competition at all. There was a safety and understanding, because our brains work so similarly and we see the world so similarly. It was more of like, “You’re saved.” It wasn’t competitive at all.
That does seem like it would be really rare. Do you often still go in for the same parts?
ZP: Because of the amazing moment [Brandon] had last year with being nominated for a Tony, I think we’re slightly separated now. We’ve been together for five years, so there have been big moments where we’ve come up against each other, and we’ve had to work through that, but I think we’ve also realized that the potential rewards in terms of our growth together were more important than the dwelling in the disappointment that the other person got something that we didn’t.
BU: That’s what made me realize that this is real, and meaningful, and true because I was always the person that put career first, and it is a priority. But once I realized that health and happiness in our relationship was paramount, then that was a big turning point for me and why we’ve had longevity.
ZP: Also when you care so much about the person that you are in the same business with and you’re auditioning for the same roles as, you get a more objective and crystallized sense of what you offer, and what they offer and how you’re different. There have been multiple times where they wanted to bring me in, but I thought the role called for Brandon. Many years ago there was a show I was auditioning for and I was like, “I really want this, but actually it’s Brandon’s job.” Then he went in for it and got it. Once you work through it, it alleviates a lot of the stress, because you know what the other person would excel at, and you want that for them.
What type of distinctions do you notice in “Zach” roles as opposed to “Brandon” roles?
BU: That’s hard to verbalize, but I will say this: I’m from New Jersey and Zach is from California, so I think a role that is more neurotic or anxious is something that I would be [good for]. The more laid back, easy going, wise version of that is Zach.
Brandon have you gotten to see Zach in Himself and Nora?
BU: I was there on opening night! It was on a Monday which was a magical, miraculous thing. It was the first time I’d been able to see him perform in years. I spend so much time with Zach on a personal level, but our professional lives have been separated [lately] because I’m off doing my thing, and he’s off doing his. I haven’t really been able to see him work.
What was that like?
BU: It was a proud moment and a validating moment. It was nice to reconnect with that awe and admiration that I have for him. It was like I fell in love with him again that night.