Lucy and Desi. Archie and Edith. Roseanne and Dan. Ralph and Alice.
One of the evergreen pleasures of pop culture is the chance it gives us to eavesdrop on other people’s relationships. When we listen to beloved, long-enduring couples and hear them tease and , it not only entertains us, it reassures us. We can feel the bond beneath the bickering, the harmony that underlies the occasional misplayed sharps and flats.
Broadway veterans Mario Cantone and Jerry Dixon met at the Manhattan cabaret room Don’t Tell Mama back in 1990. Cantone—most firmly embedded in pop cultural memory for playing wedding planner Anthony Marentino in Sex and the City—and Dixon—a triple-threat actor (If/Then, Once On This Island), director, and lyricist—have been together ever since, and got married five years ago.
Chatting with them on the phone about their upcoming performances provides a peek at the always affectionate sparring they’ll bring to the Feinstein’s stage as they kick off Pride month with their two-man show, How Long Has This Been Going On?
“This is only going to be the third and fourth time we’ve done the show,” says Cantone, explaining that the act grew out of a one-time event that he emceed in New York featuring duets by straight Broadway couples. “I was going to be up there hosting and I thought, well what about me and my partner?”
“So we did a bit where I called out from my seat,” says Dixon, “and then came up on stage and we did a number.”
That one-off was expanded into a full program, which the pair performed as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook program.
“We didn’t want the show to be a chronology of our relationship,” says Cantone, assuring potential audiences that their act does not hew to the ‘My life in love and showbiz’ tropes trotted out by many young Broadway performers doing their first cabaret shows. “Its more like having friends over and hanging out in our living room.”
“We do talk about our first vacation together,” says Dixon. “Which is a big deal. It can make or break you as a couple—“
“Shush! Shush!” Cantone interrupts. “I don’t want you to give it away.”
“We don’t talk about our careers at all,” Dixon steers the conversation in another direction. “We don’t do songs from shows we’ve been in. It’s more like having friends over to our living room. You seen how we interact.”
Dixon begins to rattle off their set list of American songbook classics: “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine,” “Hey Boy,” “River in the Rain”…
“Stop it!” shrieks Cantone.
“Mario’s favorite sport is complaining,” says Dixon. You can practically hear his eyes rolling over the phone.
Immediately after their Feinstein’s engagement, Dixon heads to Saint Louis for a lightning paced month of rehearsal for The Little Mermaid (He plays King Triton) at St. Louis’ Muny, the country’s largest outdoor musical theater.
“You’re lucky I didn’t get the role of Ursula the Sea Witch,” cackles Cantone, before quietly admitting that he misses Dixon when he acts and directs out of town.
“I have separation anxiety,” Cantone says. “I don’t like going away and I don’t like him going away.”
“He doesn’t like when I go away,” Dixon emphasizes.
“Thank you Mister Echo!”
“I have a relationship with the Village Theater in Washington State,” says Dixon, “So sometimes I’m out there for five weeks at a time.”
“Do you know the TV show Investigation Discovery?” asks Cantone. “It’s the Pacific Northwest, where all those murders and disappearances happen.”
“Every time I go out there, he’s like be careful!” notes Dixon.
Both men are homebodies and try to spend the bulk of their time together in New York.
“Did you know he makes me breakfast every morning?” asks Cantone, implying that this makes him perhaps the luckiest man in the world. “I like to sleep. I’ll stay in bed as long as I can. It’s how I stay young.”
“Its really brunch,” notes Dixon, who slips out of bed and goes upstairs to a loft space to binge watch TV in the early mornings. “At 11:30 or 12 I’ll make him a frittata or something.”
“Yesterday,” Cantone coos campily, “He made me a frog-in-a-hole.”
“What?! I said you made me a frog-in-a-hole. You did!”
“But you know where you were going with that…”
The pair fondly recall working together on the 2015 off-Broadway play Steve, directed by Cantone’s Sex and the City castmate, Cynthia Nixon.
“We walked to and from the theater together every day,” says Dixon. “It was just 15 minutes away. We called it ‘walking to school.’”
“It was so much fun,” says Cantone. “Our characters were so much different than us. And the dialogue was really rapid fire.”
“I liked going to rehearsal,” says Dixon, “Just to see Mario have to get up with his grumpy face at 9:30 in the morning. The character I played was a filthy, sexual pig—”
“He was a whore! And the way the characters interacted was so nasty. In rehearsals, I was thinking, ‘Oh no, this is gonna be a stinkbomb’”
“Mario’s character was rather nurturing,” jabs Dixon, “Which is not really like him.”
Beyond their cabaret act, are there any plays the couple would like to perform in together?
“I think it would be fun to do Love Letters,” says Dixon.
“You wouldn’t have to memorize it. You read on stage.”
“Meh!” blurts Cantone. “Go call Debra Winger.”