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The Conversation

Matt Cavenaugh, the star-crossed Tony of West Side Story, and Jenny Powers, co-star of Happiness, are getting married in Boston this August. They spoke to Jesse Oxfeld.

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I’m assuming you two met across a tense and crowded dance in a local gymnasium.
Matt Cavenaugh: We met doing a benefit concert of The Secret Garden for Rosie’s Kids.
Jenny Powers: Oh, this is a terrible story!
M.C.: I was dressed nicely—I had to sing at another benefit that night.
J.P.: He was wearing a pink shirt, in a nice suit. And I arrived late …
M.C.: She came in all aflutter, in, like, a tracksuit or something, and she sits down next to this fellow she hasn’t met, turns to me, and says, “God, I’m sweatin’ my balls off.” And I thought, “I’m in love.”
J.P.: [Laughs.] Can I be honest? I thought he was gay. He’s a Broadway actor, he was wearing pink …

Matt, you’re playing a familiar role and Jenny you’re creating a new one. Last time around it was the opposite (Cavenaugh in A Catered Affair; Powers as Rizzo in Grease). Which is harder?
JP: It’s so much harder to do a revival because everyone has a very specific idea of how it should be.
M.C.: With Grease—as with West Side Story—most people know the movie, so they want to see Stockard Channing. I have the benefit of Arthur Laurents directing; he wrote the show and he hates the movie, so he’s willing to write things to accommodate me.

Is it hard to have a life together when you’re doing eight shows a week?
M.C.: My days off are mostly silent and somber—refueling and resting. And a lot of nights after a show, we don’t really talk to each other. Not because we don’t like each other, but because we’re just—
J.P.: Matt, you say that to people, but that’s really not true!
M.C.: It’s kind of true. I speak in sign language. Because you’re tired, or because you’re protecting your voice, or …
J.P.: He’s protecting his voice. I come home, and I’m wired. He’s like a grandpa, and I’m like a little puppy. Hey! How you doing? Want some pizza? I just made this. And he’s like—silence.

Well, in your show, you’ve found happiness.
M.C.: Whereas I’m dead.

West Side Story should still be running on August 23. Will you get time for a honeymoon?
M.C.: A little—I had ten days built into my contract.

Happiness
Book by John Weidman. Music by Scott Frankel. Lyrics by Michael Korie.
Mitzie E. Newhouse Theater.
Through June 7.

West Side Story
Book by Arthur Laurents. Music by Leonard Bernstein. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Palace Theatre.


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