Valentine’s Weekend at Kean Stage
What is it like for a pair of artists to be married to each other? The question has been posed to Broadway stars Jarrod Spector and Kelli Barrett over and over again since they tied the knot in October 2014. It peaked their interest enough to begin researching famous musical marriages throughout history; a project that developed into the show “This is Dedicated: Music’s Greatest Marriages.” If you’re looking for something unique to do this Valentine’s Day weekend, you can catch the show on Saturday, February 11 at Kean University’s Enlow Recital Hall in Hillside, NJ.
Jarrod Spector, a Philadelphia native who studied at Princeton University, was a Tony nominee for originating the role of Barry Mann in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” He has also been on Broadway in “Les Misérables" and “Jersey Boys.” His wife, Kelli Barrett, starred in “Dr. Zhivago” and had a leading role in “Wicked.”
Their show focuses on the themes of love, heartbreak, triumph and despair. It celebrates love and marriage, but also explores the question of why staying together can be so difficult.
As a couple, they have firsthand knowledge of the challenges that exist for artists in marriage. Among the many variables involving time and distance, they know the dangers of actors becoming attracted to their co-stars. After all, they first met while working on a show together.
They were doing a reading of “Piece of My Heart,” fortuitously cast as husband and wife, when they first met. It took a few years, but eventually both realized their friendship was waiting to become something more. Kelli Barrett describes the “When Harry Met” Sally moment.
“One day we were talking on the phone, and I was folding laundry in my home in Astoria, and I remember he said, ‘You know you're the Sally to my Harry, right?’ and I dropped the phone,” Barrett told “Playbill”in an interview. “I kind of had this ‘a-ha’ moment. The guy that I thought was becoming one of my best friends, who I was even complaining to about my ex-boyfriend, was the guy.”
“This is Dedicated: Music’s Greatest Marriages,” which made its debut at 54 Below in New York City in 2015 - roughly around their first anniversary as a married couple, is a rather unique show. It’s not a straight out concert; it’s a scripted show and one that covers a wide range of music. In fact, the show contains enough musical styles and diversity to please everyone.
“We wanted to do the music that people love; songs they grew up listening to,” continued Barrett. “When we started looking into it, we had a list of 150 songs. The problem wasn’t finding music, it was eliminating it.”
Songs in the show come from some of the most famous marriage/partnerships in music history, from Sonny and Cher to Beyoncé and Jay Z. There are tunes by Ashford and Simpson, Ike and Tina Turner, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Barry Mann and Cythia Weil and more.
When they began looking into the histories of married collaborators, they found those who didn’t survive (Ike and Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher) and many who did (Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa, Johnny Cash and June Carter). It wound up looking like a 50/50 survival rate, which is about the nation’s average.
“We’re best friends, which makes things easier and more fun,” said Spector. “But we premiered this show around our one-year anniversary. I would never presume to tell anyone what makes a marriage work at this point in our lives. We are trying to use the show to figure out what works. With two strong-willed artists and personalities with insane schedules, there can be a lot of pitfalls.”
Another inspiration for the show came in 2014 when Spector sang at a benefit for Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the songwriting team who penned “The Way We Were” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing.”
“It was an amazing moment for Kelli and me to watch two people who were married for 57 years and worked together all that time,” recalled Spector. “They somehow lasted, not just working together, but in marriage. When Alan sang ‘A Love Like Ours’ to her, the whole audience was in tears.”
During “This is Dedicated,” the couple talks about the relationships of the artists and doesn’t gloss over the fact that half of the marriages ended in divorce. In fact, they poke fun of that with a special medley of songs written or performed by couples whose marriages ended that way.
But the two may have stumbled upon the secret for a long marriage - at least for marriages between artists - working together on stage.
“For me, the ultimate is doing things you love with the person you love,” said Barrett. “It’s a dream.”
See these dreamers on stage and celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend with the one you love with “This Is Dedicated: Music’s Greatest Marriages” on Saturday, February 11 at 7:30pm. Kean University’s Enlow Recital Hall is located at 215 North Avenue in Hillside, NJ. Tickets range from $45-$65. For more information visit www.keanstage.com.