An Onstage Wedding Brings a Broadway Happy Ending to Life

An Onstage Wedding Brings a Broadway Happy Ending to Life

There’s a lot that sparkles at “The Prom” on Broadway: the sequined formal-wear costumes, the gem-studded protest-sign props, the luminous school dance decorations for the show’s finale.

But all that glittered was rivaled after Saturday evening’s performance when two brides, gleaming in rose-gold sequins, exchanged marriage vows onstage.

Armelle Kay Harper, a script coordinator for “The Prom,” and Jody Kay Smith, an actress and singer not affiliated with the production, wanted a small wedding before a bigger ceremony in Ms. Smith’s hometown next month.

But, with the entire cast of “The Prom” surrounding them onstage, and roughly a thousand strangers looking on from the audience, it wasn’t exactly an intimate affair. For the couple, this musical that celebrates inclusivity — in it, a small-town Indiana lesbian couple face opposition to attending the prom together and get help from an unlikely source — was the perfect backdrop.

“There are so many shows where lesbians are secondary characters or the butt of the joke," Ms. Harper said in an interview. “We all love ‘Fun Home,’ but it’s a drama. So ‘The Prom’ is really unique in that it’s a celebration, and it’s funny without being at the expense of lesbians. It’s just so much joy.”

The brief ceremony came as a surprise to the audience after the cast took its bows. Bob Martin, one of the show’s writers, was ordained online and officiated. An offhand comment he made a couple months ago — “That’s how everything good starts,” Ms. Harper said — set the idea in motion.

“He said, ‘Well, I’ve married people onstage before, so if you wanted to just get it over with and do it at curtain call, we can do that,’” Ms. Smith recalled. Mr. Martin officiated at a similar ceremony in 2005 during the pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which he wrote and starred in.

Theater has been woven through the couple’s relationship from the start — and well before that, really. Ms. Smith’s parents met more than 30 years ago when they played the romantic leads, Harold and Marian, in a production of “The Music Man” in Springfield, Mo.

But, unlike her parents, Ms. Smith wasn’t interested in dating a fellow actor — in general, she said, “there’s a lot of drama, no pun intended.” Finding someone in the same industry who is on a completely different career path, Ms. Harper said, is the dream.

Ms. Harper had just left a rehearsal in 2017 when she opened the dating app Bumble out of habit and found Ms. Smith’s profile. When they matched, the first thing Ms. Smith asked about was Ms. Harper’s job on Broadway. She was drawn to Ms. Harper’s “totally unique sense of humor.”

“We’re both really witty people, and it’s hard to find someone who can keep up,” Ms. Harper said. “But she really got me, and she made me laugh. Plus those blue eyes. What can you do? Gorgeous.”

After 20 minutes of talking on the app, they decided to meet at Coogan’s, a beloved bar and restaurant in Washington Heights. They connected over being transplants to New York City from the middle of the country — Ms. Smith from Missouri, and Ms. Harper from a rural Southern Baptist town, Hideaway, in East Texas.

From there, things quickly grew serious. (“You’ve heard the joke about lesbians, right?” Ms. Harper asked. “What do lesbians bring to a second date? A U-Haul.”)

Ms. Harper began dropping hints — about what rings she liked, and how their wedding colors should match Ms. Smith’s eyes. (They are, in fact, sticking to cool tones at their ceremony next month.) Nineteen days after they met, Ms. Smith proposed at the musical theater piano bar Marie’s Crisis in the West Village.

Their maid of honor, Haley Tynes, said that her initial surprise at the speed of the engagement went away when she met Ms. Smith and saw the two together.

“They’re almost like an old married couple already, and they’re not old,” Ms. Tynes said.

The couple hope to honeymoon in San Juan. Ms. Harper’s father, who died when she was 12, was Puerto Rican, and they plan on incorporating touches of the culture — orchids, a traditional vanilla pineapple cake — into their wedding, which is on Sept. 21 in a nod to Earth, Wind & Fire. (“We’re very dramatic,” Ms. Smith said.)

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy for Ms. Harper, who grew up in an “incredibly homophobic” environment. Most of her family will not be coming to the wedding next month.

“Even coming from that background, I’ve never felt a pinch of regret or shame,” Ms. Harper said. “Loving Jody is worth everything. And being myself is worth everything.”

Her mother, brother and grandmother will be at the ceremony in September, which Ms. Harper said is a step.

“Hopefully, with time,” she added, “they’ll see that this is beautiful.”

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