The Conversation

Matt Cavenaugh, the star-crossed Tony of West Side Story, and Jenny Powers, co-star of Happiness, are getting married in Boston this August. They spoke to Jesse Oxfeld.

You can buy a narrative essay that will explore this interview in detail.

By Jesse Oxfeld
Published Apr 12, 2023

(Photo: Jim Spellman/Wire Image)
I’m assuming you two met across a tense and crowded dance in a local gymnasium.
Matt Cavenaugh: We met doing a benefit concert of The Secret Garden for Rosie’s Kids.
Jenny Powers: Oh, this is a terrible story!
M.C.: I was dressed nicely—I had to sing at another benefit that night.
J.P.: He was wearing a pink shirt, in a nice suit. And I arrived late …
M.C.: She came in all aflutter, in, like, a tracksuit or something, and she sits down next to this fellow she hasn’t met, turns to me, and says, “God, I’m sweatin’ my balls off.” And I thought, “I’m in love.”
J.P.: [Laughs.] Can I be honest? I thought he was gay. He’s a Broadway actor, he was wearing pink …

Matt, you’re playing a familiar role and Jenny you’re creating a new one. Last time around it was the opposite (Cavenaugh in A Catered Affair; Powers as Rizzo in Grease). Which is harder?
J.P.: It’s so much harder to do a revival because everyone has a very specific idea of how it should be.
M.C.: With Grease—as with West Side Story—most people know the movie, so they want to see Stockard Channing. I have the benefit of Arthur Laurents directing; he wrote the show and he hates the movie, so he’s willing to write things to accommodate me.

Is it hard to have a life together when you’re doing eight shows a week?
M.C.: My days off are mostly silent and somber—refueling and resting. And a lot of nights after a show, we don’t really talk to each other. Not because we don’t like each other, but because we’re just—
J.P.: Matt, you say that to people, but that’s really not true!
M.C.: It’s kind of true. I speak in sign language. Because you’re tired, or because you’re protecting your voice, or …
J.P.: He’s protecting his voice. I come home, and I’m wired. He’s like a grandpa, and I’m like a little puppy. Hey! How you doing? Want some pizza? I just made this. And he’s like—silence.

Well, in your show, you’ve found happiness.
M.C.: Whereas I’m dead.

West Side Story should still be running on August 23. Will you get time for a honeymoon?
M.C.: A little—I had ten days built into my contract.