The Secret to Happiness with Daddy Long Legs stars Megan McGinnis and Adam Halpin

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Daddy Long Legs is the story of two people from vastly different worlds who find each other and a love they never could’ve imagined. Each night on stage, Master Jervis Pembleton takes poor Jerusha Abbott to ‘his Manhattan’ and she takes him inside her world full of hope and books, and somewhere in the middle they find true love. Each night on stage, real-life husband and wife  Adam Halpin and Megan McGinnis get to relive falling in love all over again while doing what they love most with the person they love most.

The couple sat down with Stage Door Dish to discuss the benefits of live-streaming theatre, Megan’s ability to keep her role fresh every night, and Adam’s alternate career plans.

You’ve been with Daddy Long Legs for so long. What drew you to Jerusha Abbot in the beginning and what keeps your drawn to her now after all this time?

MM: Well, I met Paul Gordon and John Caird when I auditioned for the role of Helen Burns in the Broadway production of Jane Eyre. I still have the sheet music, I sang Forgiveness actually, and oh I loved that song. I had one of those moments where I thought, ‘Wow, these people are so great!’ You can really get the vibe of a project from an audition. So I met them that year and then I went on to do the Les Mis revival with John. Meanwhile I met Paul again socially, through a mutual friend. Paul gave me a demo CD of Daddy Long Legs– not because he thought I should do it, but just because he knew I liked Jane Eyre so he thought I’d like this. I put the CD in my car and thought it was amazing. I just loved it. A couple of years later when I saw a reading of it, I loved it even more. When I heard they were doing auditions, I thought, ‘Oh gosh, a chance to just sing these songs at least once!’ and then I got the part, so I’ve sung them a lot more than once. I love Jerusha so much. She is so creative, imaginative, smart, and ahead of her time. Being able to tell one person’s journey over four years of her life, from beginning to end, is a dream for an actor. The songs are so good, the story is so good- it is simple but it is told so well. I love doing the show. I’ve never thought about not doing the show.  It has been such a long time, but there’s never a point where I’ve thought, ‘I should probably move on to something else.’ It was never like that. Jerusha –well I shouldn’t say she’s never tiring because it is a tiring job, but I never think,  ‘I don’t want to tell this story’. If I’m ever tired before the show, when I get on stage, when I start the show, I feel rejuvenated. I’m like, ‘Oh great, I get to tell the story again!’

Jerusha has such an endless hope to her, even when she is in despair she continues on. Has she inspired you in this way, or perhaps another way?

MM: I want to say that she has changed me and made me more optimistic, but I don’t think that’s true. What I think she does is she reminds me to aim for that because I think that’s who she is. I love her because she has that optimism; she never seems to let life get her down. I think that as Megan, I am a little more sensitive than that. So every night I think, ‘I want to be more like Jerusha!’ So I try, but I don’t want to say I’ve achieved it. Adam, do you think I’ve been better?

AH: I do! You’ve had six years to work on it.

MM: It feels so good to be reminded of it every night. It’s probably better to have that than to think, ‘Oh, I’m good, I don’t need that reminder’.

What was the live-stream performance like? That was the first time that has ever been done and it received a huge amount of reception, right?

MM: It was our producer, Ken Davenport’s idea. He came to me around opening, before Adam was in the show and told me that he wanted to do that, and it sounded terrifying.  I told him to just not tell me when he was going to do it, to just do it! I just didn’t realize how big a deal it would be. He came back to me once Adam joined the show and said that he wanted to do it now. I asked what it entailed and he said, ‘You just do your show and we film it and it will be broadcasted’. We decided not to do any marketing for it besides what Ken called guerrilla marketing. It was just us and all of our friends posting about it. So even with just that we still had 150,000 people watching! I just think that’s so cool and really lets you know how much people are in need of theatre around the world- there were people in Syria watching. It just felt really good to get it out there, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

AH: We did a run-through with two cameras and our director. He watched us do it and called live cues that night with two cameras. He was incredible. Everyone said that it looked and sounded so good. When Fox and those big networks do those live shows – and I know a lot goes into it, but something always goes wrong with the design element somehow. The sound is weird, or they’re shooting other cameras instead of people…it’s hard. So the fact that we had two cameras and a guy calling live cues, and we were able to do it and it was communicated so well, was really exciting for us.

MM: Ken made a great point that we are in the New Age, so theatre has to figure out where it fits into that. I am very much about theatre being a live experience – and being in the room for it. I hate seeing people take out their phones and filming stuff, but I do think there is a way to work in filming and documenting and social media while still keeping it a live experience.

AH: I agree. There’s the argument where people say, ‘I’ve already seen it,’ but the amount of people who come up to me and say, ‘I saw the live-stream and flew in to see the show’. They tell me they loved it and had make it one of the three shows they were planning to see on their weekend trip to New York.

MM: We had someone from Las Vegas the other day; we’ve gotten a few people who have flown here to see Daddy Long Legs and Hamilton!

AH: So yeah, there’ll always be people who say ‘I already saw it,’ but ultimately I think the show is written well enough and it’s exciting enough that people will want to see it live. They crave it. It’s just like seeing –

MM: For me it was Into The Woods on VHS and I wanted to see it live.

AH: Chicago won the Oscar for best picture and that show is still running. I think there is absolutely a way that the two are linked in a positive way.  If it is something that people have a lukewarm response to, sure, they’re not going to come see it. But if people grasp onto something that they love, they want more of it.

If you could take on any other couple role on Broadway, which one would you choose?

MM: Oh, you know what it is!

AH: Well, they’re technically not a couple, but for me it would be George and Dot in Sunday [in the Park with George]. They’re a couple, a mistress and whatever. I’m dying for a way for us to do that show. But if it were a married couple, I think we would have a lot of fun doing Leo and Lucille from Parade.

Given the opportunity, would you work together again like this?

MM: I think we would. I think before this we would’ve questioned it – 

AH: Well, we had worked together before, but not like this. We have been in smaller roles or smaller productions together, but never as both of the leads, especially in a two person show.

You’ve been doing this together for 4 months – has it been different than you anticipated?

MM: We didn’t think it was good idea at first. The team asked me if Adam would audition, but he felt that it was my show. He wanted to be the supportive husband, plus he had never seen himself in that part.  

AH: Not once.

MM:  He is incredible. He can do anything. It just wasn’t a part that I had seen for him. But we held auditions for a few weeks and couldn’t find anyone so the team asked me to talk to him again and he finally agreed.  

AH: After I auditioned they wanted to consider me for the role and asked if it would ruin my marriage. Our reservations were very clear at the start, but we talked about it and decided on a trial run, and after about a month we realized that we could do it.  

MM: I won’t pretend that it isn’t hard at times. But the reward is so worth it. When Ken emailed me to see how we felt about working together and asking if Adam wanted to extend his contract after the trial, I told him that it’s just as hard as I had expected but more rewarding than I ever anticipated. And I still feel that way. It has been great. He is so good in the part.

AH:  Jerusha is a tough part. Megan brings 6, nearly 7 years of experience and depth and investment to the part and the show. As I am only 4 months in, I’m still navigating in many ways. Despite the fact that I’ve seen the show 60 times, she has been gracious to give advice on certain things about the character – 

MM:  And he has been gracious to take it!

AH:  So it’s not without challenges for sure, but it has been…awesome.

MM: I said this to Adam the other night: I don’t think I’ve loved him as much as I love him now. It has really deepened. And with the onstage proposal, we get to fall in love every night! I also get to say no to him every night,

AH:  It’s just like real life anyway. She starts with a ‘no’ and ends with a ‘yes.’ It’s that persistence!

What’s something people would be surprised to know about your spouse?

MM: I just posted this the other day. On Adam’s birthday I posted a photo of him playing baseball from when he was about 8 or 9 because he was going to be a baseball player, which isn’t something many people know about him! You should see his pitching stance!

So if Damn Yankees comes back around…

MM: Yes! He needs be on one of the Broadway softball leagues! Daddy Long Legs softball league… just the two of us.

AH: I would say that Megan is such a hard worker – in a good way. She could easily go out there and give the same performance every night because it has been in her for so long, but she cares so much. Every show is approached with such care and preparation that it makes me better. Watching her prepare and take care of herself and all of that going into the role is really sort of special.

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About Nicole N.

"Say yes. Show up afraid, show up prepared, but say yes." - Renee Elise Goldsberry

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