Amy Miller Brennan and Shane Tanner are used to opening nights. She’s a beautiful, versatile leading lady; he’s a handsome and likewise versatile leading man. They’re two of the most in-demand actors in South Florida, so each season brings a slew of openings, individually and together.
But on Monday at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, Miller Brennan and Tanner will share a first night like no other: They’re getting married. Onstage. For real.
There are plenty of married couples, straight and gay, in South Florida’s theater community. Their weddings took place in churches, synagogues, courthouses, private homes, resorts — the usual. The Miller Brennan-Tanner nuptials, on the other hand, are unusual, if not so different from some of the memorable musical productions that Actors’ Playhouse presents at the Miracle.
Most weddings feature ritual, pageantry, music and a little drama. This one has a Carbonell Award-winning music director, Eric Alsford; an officiant who is the Actors’ Playhouse artistic director, David Arisco; and a girl group (Julie Kleiner Davis, Jeni Hacker and Sally Bondi) that will sing a couple of nontraditional numbers, the Dixie Cups hit Chapel of Love and (from The Marvelous Wonderettes) With This Ring.
Guests, who got a wedding invitation styled like a ticket, will walk into the theater on a red carpet. A sizable segment of the theater community will form the audience for a night six years in the making.
“It’s the Carbonell Awards, part two,” says a laughing Kleiner Davis, referring to the other glitzy night when everyone in South Florida theater gets together.
Tanner, 41, and Miller Brennan, 36, are getting married at the place they met. He was appearing in the lavish Actors’ Playhouse musical 1776 in 2008, and she had come to town from her home in New York to play Amalia Balash in She Loves Me at the now-defunct Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton.
She caught 1776 with her friend and fellow cast member Laura Hodos, and after the show the two went backstage to say hello to some actors Hodos knew. Tanner came down the stairs from the dressing room, spotted Miller Brennan, and asked his actor pal Christopher Kent whether she was single. At that time, the answer was no.
Still, when they were introduced, “there was this energy, an electricity,” Miller Brennan remembers. “It was love at first sight. I just didn’t know it.”
Tanner was cast in She Loves Me too, and the two became friends. The actor, a divorced dad whose son Wiley lives in Kentucky, would hang out with Miller Brennan and a few of the other actors living in cast housing. But then he abruptly stopped.
“Any time I felt that electricity, I’d pull back,” Tanner says. “I couldn’t be around her.”
Then, Miller Brennan’s marriage to a harbor cruise ship captain came to an amicable end. When Tanner confessed his feelings to her, she says, “It fell on me like a ton of bricks. It was just so strong. I realized I thought about him every day.”
That the two fell so hard for each other isn’t surprising. Tanner grew up in Fort Lauderdale, went to high school in North Carolina, served in the Army, and got into theater after a girlfriend took him to see what proved to be a life-changing Les Misérables in London. Miller Brennan, an Alabama girl who grew up in Birmingham, earned her bachelor’s degree in musical theater from Birmingham-Southern College and her master’s in acting from the Actors Studio Drama School in New York.
Both were raised Baptist. Both love kids. Both are Carbonell Award winners with gorgeous voices. Both want to make a living away from the intense hustle that is an actor’s life in Manhattan.
Bondi says of the two, “Fairy-tales come in all sizes, shapes and forms. In the end, for better or worse, love wins.”
It took the couple a while to get to their onstage altar because, Tanner says, “I always wanted to propose but I wanted to be set up financially first. Then I realized that’s never gonna happen.”
The big moment came at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 21, the very last minute of Miller Brennan’s birthday. The bride-to-be is a drama teacher at American Heritage School in Delray Beach, and some of her students had been texting Tanner, asking when was he going to propose. So he did, at home with their golden retriever mixes Annie and Gus looking on.
After the couple got through the will-you-marry-me and yes-I-will part of the proposal, they noticed that Gus was chewing the black velvet ring box to pieces. Miller Brennan saved it anyway.
At first, they planned to wed over the summer since Tanner’s son Wiley, 11, would be with them. Then Arisco let them know that Actors’ Playhouse executive director Barbara Stein was OK with having the first-ever wedding at the Miracle, so they switched gears; Wiley, who calls Miller Brennan “my future stepmom,” has come back to Florida to serve as his dad’s best man.
“We didn’t want to open the floodgates to weddings, but this was special. They met here. It’s Amy and Shane. And they asked me to marry them,” says Arisco, who cast them as the cruel Bill Sikes and doomed Nancy in his 2010 production of Oliver!. “They’re just two of the best musical theater actors here. They’re a joy to work with, and two of the nicest people. When they’re in a show, I know I’m going to get their best work.”
After their gloriously theatrical wedding, the Tanners won’t be going on a honeymoon for quite some time.
He’s appearing in What’s New Pussycat? at Stage Door Theater in Coral Springs, and in the coming year he’ll have major roles in A Chorus Line at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach; La Cage aux Folles, Man of La Mancha and Oklahoma! at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton; Rock Odyssey at Miami’s Arsht Center; and, with his new wife, Little Shop of Horrors and Big Fish at Slow Burn Theatre in Boca Raton. In addition to her full-time teaching job, Miller Brennan will be in Slow Burn’s production of The Marvelous Wonderettes this fall at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Their friend Kleiner Davis thinks she knows why the two are so good together. And it isn’t because of their similarities.
“They have the same love of theater and art, but they’re different. They bring out strengths in each other,” she says. “Before, Shane was this little puppy dog boy, and now he’s made sense of his life because of her. Amy has always been so organized, but Shane brought out this youthfulness and playfulness in her.”