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Couples who play together, stay together on Vashon stages
Beginning in 1928, Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne set the bar on what it meant to be a theatrical power couple, refusing for the next 32 years to appear on stage separately.
But three island duos — all appearing in Drama Dock’s next production — might have a few things to teach even the Lunts about living happily ever after, both onstage and off.
All three married couples — Marshall and Stephanie Murray, Phil Dunn and Stephen Floyd, and Gordon Millar and Patricia Kelly — are members of the 18-member cast of Drama Dock’s upcoming musical, “Into the Woods,” opening on Friday at Bethel Church. The show, by revered Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, is a much-loved musical mashup of fairy tales including Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and others.
The show’s director, Charlotte Tiencken — an islander who works by day as the managing director of Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre — said she didn’t set out to cast so many couples in the show.
“It wasn’t intentional,” Tiencken said. “But it’s a play about love and relationships and people working together for a common goal, so it fits perfectly.”
Tiencken mentioned that she has also enjoyed working with another duo in the show — brother and sister twins Ellie and Isaac Hughes, who play Red Riding Hood and Jack in the show. (Full disclosure: In yet another twist of kinship, the writer of this article is the twins’ mother.)
“It’s really cool to have this family thing going,” she said.
The Murrays play a married couple in the show, a hapless baker and his wife, whose misadventures tie together many of the threads in the show.
Floyd, who is well known in the community as the drama teacher at Vashon High School, is the narrator of the play, and his husband Dunn, a island theater stalwart, plays the ravenous wolf who stalks Red Riding Hood.
Kelly plays the mother of Jack, while her husband Millar plays the comedic roles of Cinderella’s father and Red Riding Hood’s tasty granny.
For Marshall and Stephanie Murray, who have been married since 2007, “Into the Woods” is the latest in a series of collaborations. The pair acted together in several professional shows in Portland, and since moving to Vashon, they’ve appeared in “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Black Comedy,” “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and “Side by Side by Sondheim” together.
Stephanie Murray said it’s always a joy to tread the boards with her husband.
“There’s nothing like being on stage with someone you share your life with,” she said.
Marshall described the pleasures of drawing on his wife’s expertise to help him deepen his understanding of the show.
“We’re able to give feedback and go back and forth about how to make our characters stronger,” he said.
The only challenge of being in “Into the Woods” together, Stephanie said, was that the couple they portray in the show has a much more turbulent relationship than their own.
“Our characters bicker a lot, and argue, but we don’t,” Stephanie said. “We communicate extremely well.”
Floyd and Dunn, who have been together for 31 years and were legally wed in California in 2008, have also forged a life together both onstage and off.
Even the beginning of their romance had a distinctly theatrical flair: On their first dates, Floyd helped Dunn practice his lines for a University of Louisville production of “Romeo and Juliet,” with Dunn, appropriately enough, playing the role of Romeo.
“If you saw it in a movie, you would think, no, that’s too stupid to believe,” Floyd said.
After all these years, Floyd said he is still wowed by Dunn’s stage work.
“I’m always excited to watch him rehearse and perform,” he said. “He’s the most interesting, clever actor I know.”
Like the other couples in “Into the Woods,” Patricia Kelly and Gordon Millar have also appeared in many shows together. In the nine years they’ve been married, they’ve done six shows together, Millar said.
The only problem with the arrangement, Kelly joked, is that things tend to fall apart on the home front during the times they are both rehearsing and performing a show.
“I often wish I had a husband or a wife here to take care of us — it’s like, who’s going to do the shopping?” she said, with a laugh. “It’s just the logistics, but we make it work.”
“Into the Woods” opens Friday night — performances will take place July 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 and 28 at the Bethel Church. Evening shows are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Buy tickets, $20 general admission and $15 for Drama Dock members, students and seniors, at www.brownpapertickets.com, the Vashon Bookshop and Drama Dock’s Strawberry Festival booth, where tickets will be discounted by $5.