George and Ira Gershwin’s first Broadway collaboration is the musical “Lady Be Good.” The comedy, which starred Fred and Adele Astaire, first opened on Broadway in 1924, but hasn’t seen a grand-scale New York City production since.
All that will change on Feb. 4, when “Lady Be Good” opens at New York City Center, kicking off the 2015 Encores! season. Nine-time Tony winner Tommy Tune (and his red tap shoes) stars in the limited run, which closes Feb. 8.
Newly engaged actors Colin Donnell (“Violet,” TV’s “The Affair” and “Arrow”) and Patti Murin (“Fly By Night,” “Lysistrata Jones”) also star as two characters who fall for one another despite mistaken identities and zany plots. (Don’t worry — their real-life love story was far less complicated).
In between rehearsals and wedding planning, the two sat down with us to discuss falling in love, on and off stage:
NBC 4 New York: What drew you both to “Lady Be Good”?
COLIN DONNELL: I love classic musical theater and the Encores! program. But really, it was Tommy Tune. I saw him perform in “The Music Man” at The Muney in St. Louis when I was a kid. That always stuck in my brain.
PATTI MURIN: [Tune] was one of those people who even before I knew I wanted to go into musical theater, he was inspiring me. But this sort of came out of the blue a bit. I was just excited to be playing opposite Colin.
DONNELL: This is the first time that we’re really truly playing opposite one another! I’m just so happy it is working out. I feel so honored.
NBC 4 New York: The show features these songs by the Gershwins. These composers are going places, huh?
DONNELL: [Laughs] Give them another 50 years, and they’ll really become something!
MURIN: My first show out of college was at a non-equity theater down in Florida. And I did “Crazy for You.” There’s not many scores as wonderful as that. I’ve done mostly new musicals, and it’s like “Oh... Okay... It’s not Gershwin..”
DONNELL: It’s been really fun to revisit all of their music. It’s a joy, especially with the Encores! orchestra.
MURIN: And the Gershwins are still full of surprises. There are a couple of songs people aren’t going to know. The first song Danny Gardner and I sing, “Hang on to Me,” won’t be very recognizable, but it’s a beautiful Gershwin tune.
NBC 4 New York: You were last together in The Public Theater’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost” back in 2012. Is that where you first met?
MURIN: We actually met 8 years ago at a birthday party. We lived six blocks away from each other, so we became friends and hung out a bit. But nothing was brewing then.
DONNELL: Nothing ever happened until Shakespeare in the Park. It was a long-gestated friendship.
MURIN: We had both come out of relationships. And then I had a party where we got drunk and made out. And the next day I was like ‘Oh no — we start rehearsal tomorrow! I’m going to have to see him every day, what do I do?’ Neither of us were looking for another relationship.
DONNELL: It was great the way it worked. It felt right when it happened.
MURIN: And it felt careful in the right way. It felt like we took it a little bit slow.
NBC 4 New York: Is it hard dating another actor? Does it get competitive?
DONNELL: There’s ups and downs through every career, so without your partner backing you up, there’s a possibility of becoming resentful. We’ve found a great balance of letting each other do our own thing and being supportive. But one of the things we did early on was we banned business talk entirely between us.
MURIN: For like, three months! It really forced us to make sure we were connecting in other ways. A lot of time when you date actors, at the end, all you have left is what you do.
DONNELL: And that’s not to say — I’m a huge fan of Patti Murrin the actress. And I dare say I might be her biggest fan.
MURIN: We are each other’s biggest fans, for sure.
DONNELL: But more so, I’m in love with her as a person, and that’s what makes me happy every day. I wouldn’t be able to have the successes in my career if it weren’t for the happiness in my personal life.
MURIN: I feel the same way.
NBC NY: It’s kind of disgusting.
MURIN: I know it’s gross!
NBC 4 New York: These days, so many actors are traveling back and forth from stage to screen. How do you choose where to go next?
DONNELL: I would love to think of it logically, but it doesn’t work. You’ve got to try and figure out what the next move may be, and then allow for something to completely come in and screw that plan up.
MURIN: Everything that’s ever happened for me has been what I never expected. I agreed to do “Lysistrata Jones” for $250 in a gym downtown because I liked the material, and it lead to my first starring role on Broadway. You have to turn off that logic, which is the hardest thing ever.
DONNELL: Detachment is the name of the game. And just the fact that that opportunity is more available — it’s thanks to the creative powers out there who are looking outside of this one little section of performers that they have. They’re championing this wide pool of actors.
NBC 4 New York: Well we’re glad you’re both back on stage this time around.
DONNELL: The show is pure farcical fun. And I’m going to enjoy sitting in the wings and watching it unravel onstage each night.
MURIN: And just the people that they have!
DONNELL: It’s one of the cool things about doing Encores! It’s these three weeks, so it’s this amazing commitment that they can get Tommy Tune to do it. It’s such a treat for NY Theater. Being at the show, watching people do what they do so well, hearing a full orchestra, and hearing beautiful music? There’s nothing better.
“Lady Be Good,” through Feb. 8 at New York City Center, 130 West 56th Street. Tickets: $30-$130. Call (212) 581-1212 or visit NYCityCenter.org.