Why Broadway’s New Rum Tum Tugger and His Partner Feel Extra Pride

Showmance   Why Broadway’s New Rum Tum Tugger and His Partner Feel Extra Pride
 
In the wake of the Orlando tragedy, Tyler Hanes and Van Hansis reflect on their relationship, Pride and feeling grateful for the latest revival of Cats.
Showmance_Tyler Hanes_Van Hansis
Tyler Hanes (left) and Van Hansis (right) Courtesy of Tyler Hanes and Van Hansis

This Pride Sunday there’s a lot to be proud of in the Tyler Hanes-Van Hansis household. Hanes begins previews for the first Broadway revival of Cats July 14. The dance pro plays the hip-thrusting, Mick Jagger-style, tomcat Rum Tum Tugger, who is “always on the wrong side of every door.” Hansis earned three Daytime Emmy nominations for his role as Luke Snyder—one half of the first gay couple to be featured on a soap opera—in As the World Turns. He was nominated again this year for playing Thom in the incredibly addictive web series EastSiders, which centers around two—and sometimes three—on-again-off-again boyfriends living in Silver Lake.

Hanes and Hansis first met when they went to college together at Carnegie Mellon, but it wasn’t until they bumped into each other at the opening-night party of Legally Blonde in 2007 that Hanes finally stopped dodging Hansis’ conversation attempts. Nine years later, Hanes and Hansis live together with their two cats and continue to set some serious #relationshipgoals. As Thom’s boyfriend in EastSiders says, “We have a cat. In gay terms that’s like 2.8 kids.”

With Tyler about to open on Broadway as a lead role in the first revival of Cats and Van earning another Daytime Emmy nomination for starring in the successful web series EastSiders, I think you officially qualify as a power couple! Do you feel like one in this moment?
Tyler Hanes: I don’t know what that means, but we feel like a power couple in our apartment with our two cats.
Van Hansis: We lord over those cats. Those cats know who’s in charge.
TH: I don’t know what people think of us, but I know how we are, and our friends know how we are: We’re just idiots.

But there are ups and downs for each person in a relationship. It’s great when the ups happen at the same time, but it can be hard when one is up and the other is down.
TH: We have this analogy, and it’s called the flower and the gardener. In a relationship there’s the flower and then there’s the gardener. If it’s a bad relationship the roles never change.
VH: Like one person will always be the flower.
TH: But in a good relationship, the roles change. When one of us is being needy we’ll say, “I’m just being a flower right now,” and the other person is like, “Okay. I understand that I need to take care of you.”
VH: Every relationship has its ups and downs and back and forths. There’s certain days when you don’t see each other, because you’re both off living your own life, and then you reconnect in the evening, when you’re going to bed. Those days can kind of suck sometimes, but as long as the connection stays, there’s something exciting about the fact that you’re both being fulfilled with what you want to be doing.

Showmance_Tyler Hanes_Van Hansis
Van Hansis (left) and Tyler Hanes (right) Courtesy of Tyler Hanes and Van Hansis

It’s an exciting time! So Van, what is your favorite part about Tyler being in Cats? (Aside from that sexy leotard!)
VH: I have been an unapologetic Cats lover from the get-go. I had that two-disc set, and I remember listening to it in the kitchen because for some reason that’s where the only CD player in my house was. My favorite part of Tyler being a part of [this revival] is the anticipation of getting to see him do a role that I know he’s just going to positively slay. [Rum Tum Tugger] is the type of character that Tyler loves to play. Also having been together for nine years now, I’ve seen Tyler’s journey first hand. When he got to play Gabey in On the Town [at Papermill Playhouse and as a replacement on Broadway], that was a cumulation of the hard work that I’ve seen him put into [his career] for as long as I’ve known him, and for him to now move on to Cats—I’m so proud of him. And I mean he’ll look really good in the cat costume, but he’s still going to be dressed up as a giant cat with a lot of makeup on so…

Well, it must have been interesting to watch him prepare for his Cats audition.
VH: He told me they had to prepare a little section where they had to act like a cat.
TH: Someone told me that we had to do five counts of eight as a cat.
VH: So I told him to sh*t in a litter box, or hack up a hairball.
TH: And that’s how I got the job.
VH: He can actually do a really good impression of one of our cats hacking up a hairball, but yeah seeing him prepare as a cat was really fun. I’d laugh, but then I’d be like, “Actually you look like a cat.”

It was probably helpful that you have two cats.
VH: The thing is, is that everyone’s talking about the cats being so sexy. Our cats are the least sexy things.
TH: They’re the sweetest, but they’re also disgusting.
VH: They’re loud. They’re needy. They’re always the flower. They’re never garden.

That’s so true. Cats do not garden! Tyler, what does it mean to be back rehearsing for a Broadway show this Pride?

Showmance_Tyler Hanes_Van Hansis
Tyler Hanes (left) and Van Hansis (right) Courtesy of Tyler Hanes and Van Hansis

TH: I’m always grateful for any opportunity to work and do what I love to do, and with this cast especially—they really assembled a great group of personalities. This journey so far has been so much fun. We just have a really good time in rehearsals, and we just happen to be putting on this great show. So to be in this show on Broadway, at this time, and at this point in my life, where I have so much pride—I am so proud of who I am, and I’m so proud of my relationship, and I’m so proud of Van—it means something so much more to me than it ever did before. I feel like I have so much to celebrate, whereas when I was younger I don’t think I understood what that meant, or how it came to this, or who came before us. Now I do, and with the recent events that happened in Orlando it means more to me now than it ever has. It’s great that I get to celebrate it with this cast and this show on Broadway.

What was it like to wake up with each other on Tony Sunday and see what had happened in Orlando?
TH: Every time something like this happens it shocks me a little bit, but this hit closer to home because this could have been us.
VH: We were the target.
TH: And in such a severe way. I was stunned because I’m with my partner, waking up with him and so grateful that we have each other and that we’re here, but out in the world there’s this chaos and tragedy. It’s just like, “What the hell?”

Do you have anything special planned for what will certainly be a very proud Pride Sunday?
VH: We haven’t discussed what we’re doing for Pride yet, but I think it’s really important to stay out there and keep fighting and to not let something like this terrible tragedy stop the celebration and the ownership of how far we’ve all come. It’s very telling that even though gay marriage passed across the country and things have changed so much for the positive, there’s still this underlying homophobia. You’ve got to stay angry, and you’ve got to stay vigilant. You have to ask for more than just moments of silence and prayers at times like this.

Recommended Pride Stories: