The onstage spouses took each other in sickness and in health. A few days into rehearsals, Larsen underwent emergency surgery due to a twisted and obstructed colon. When she returned to work less than a week later, her physical weakness strengthened the bond between her and her co-star. "I couldn't stand for very long, but I tried to be macho because I didn't want anyone worrying about me, and I didn't want to risk losing the show," Larsen recalls. "The minute we finished a scene, Jarrod pulled up a chair next to me because he could see that I needed it but wasn't going to ask for it. Just knowing that he had my back was very moving and meant a lot to me."
The actors supercharged their chemistry by befriending their real-life counterparts, who have been married for more than 50 years. "The more time we spend with Barry and Cynthia, the more we can imbue our scenes and book writer Douglas McGrath's dialogue with their personalities," says Spector, who's no stranger to bio-musicals, having played Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys for more than six years and a record 1,500 performances. "The creative team was also open to suggestions based on our conversations and interactions." Spector and Larsen renewed their commitment during awards season when they were both Tony-nominated in the featured acting categories. "That we lost together just feels right," says Larsen. "It wouldn't have been fair for one to win without the other."
"Her losing did make my losing easier," Spector admits.
Larsen remembers first clicking with her pretend partner while they tackled a troublesome bit during tech rehearsals. "Jarrod had some ideas, and I told him, 'I completely trust you.' It's a cardinal rule that actors don't give other actors notes, but we became comfortable saying to each other, 'What if you try this?' We're such a team that we don't have egos about that."
"It's ultimately about making each moment better, which makes us both look better," says Spector. "The more the audience laughs at one of us, the more they'll laugh at the other. Without implicit trust, you can't be funny."
As supporting foils for Tony winner Jessie Mueller and Jake Epstein, who star as romantically doomed songwriting duo Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Spector and Larsen do keep audiences in stitches. But all jokes aside, they insist there's more to their B-plot best pals than comic relief. "What's beautiful about Beautiful — yeah, I said it — is that it has so much heart," Larsen explains. "People fall in love with our characters as they fall in love with each other. They're not just laughing at us. They're rooting for us."
That doesn't mean Spector and Larsen aren't having fun playing second fiddles. "It's kind of like Jessie and Jake work all day to cook your delicious entrée, but we stopped at a bakery and brought you dessert," Larsen says. "Everyone loves dessert."
"We're the dessert and the appetizer," Spector clarifies. "And definitely the cocktails."
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