They've known each other ten years, since Karen Ziemba's husband introduced Boyd Gaines to her when she was creating magic in Kander and Ebb's And the World Goes 'Round.  Then she saw him in his Tony winning turn in the She Loves Me revival.  "We have mutual friends and were always seeing each other," laughs Karen, "but never worked together until a reading of [K&E's] Steel Pier. It's a small world, and our lives have often interconnected."

But not in Contact, the hit Susan Stroman/John Weidman dance musical at the Vivian Beaumont for which they were Tony-nominated as Best Featured Actress/Actor in a Musical.  (The show itself went on to win for Best Musical.)  "We're members of the Susan Stroman and Scott Ellis unofficial repertory companies," says Boyd, in Karen's dressing room in the bowels of the Lincoln Center complex, "but somehow never managed to worked together.  Even now, when we're finally in the same show.  You'd think we could have had a moment in the finale!  Eventually, we'll find the right something."

To that end, they've discussed John Weidman writing a show for them. They also discuss their rich theatrical history: She in A Chorus Line and 42nd Street, before stardom in Crazy for You and NYCO's 110 In The Shade and The Most Happy Fella; he in Roundabout's revivals of Cabaret and Company and The Heidi Chronicles (Tony Award) after a modicum of fame on TV's "One Day At A Time."

Stroman invited Ziemba to the first Contact workshop, when it was called The Swing Project. " It was so funny and moving.  Everybody had something going.  It wasn't just choreography, but had  real characters I cared about.  I was so envious, not being up there dancing with all those kids."  Boyd came much later - and thought they had the wrong Gaines and wanted Davis Gaines. It happens a lot.  People are always saying, 'I loved you in Phantom.'  Or mistaking me for Harry Groener, an old friend.  They say, 'Loved you in Crazy For You.'  I just say 'Thanks.' It's easier than explaining.  I told my agent, 'They can't mean me.' Except when required to do a few steps, I never danced.  He told me, 'Just read it.'  I did, and this was the most wonderful character. But when I got to where I'd really have to dance, I said, 'I don't think so.'"

"You're dancing now!" laughs Karen. "Susan's worked miracles."
Boyd explains he'd never done "partner dancing," as he does with Deborah Yates, The Girl in the Yellow Dress. "I was petrified and called Susan [in London, where she was shooting the film of her West End Oklahoma!].  She reassured me.  And so I came to the second workshop, and was blown away with how beautifully the pieces flowed and  Karen's performance."

In rehearsals, as connected as they became to the show, neither thought it would  have a long life.  "I never thought we'd go past a few weeks," explains Boyd.  "We knew it was good and that we loved it. But - ".
   "It was an unusual piece," notes Karen, "and a departure for John.  It's not the type of writing he usually does."

Of the controversy surrounding Contact's being considered a musical, when it has no songs or live music, Karen notes, "That was the case from the beginning."  Do she and Boyd understand the fuss?  "Yes," they reply.
"The idea was to use music we'd have at home," says Karen. "Something we'd  listen to."
"Music," adds Boyd, "you don't have a connection to, that's sort of floating around."
"Yet," notes Karen, "the music and lyrics have much to do with what's going on.  It's been well chosen, and the show's faithful to the way it was in workshop.  It's only gotten richer and deeper because of what the cast has brought."
"You have to be careful out there, though," states Boyd. "The show's staged within an inch of its life."
"Right!" agrees Karen. "If you're not where you've supposed to be at the exact moment you're supposed to be, it's wham, bam, thank you, ma'am!"
She becomes emotional. "I find myself in a comfortable place and so fortunate this is having such a life. I like long runs.  They help you grow and discover all sorts of things about yourself."
"Audiences are having a great time," smiles Boyd, "so it looks like we'll be here a while."

Must be.  Karen's bought him slippers to keep in his dressing room. "I'm tired of you walking around barefoot!" she tells him.


Key Subjects: 
Contact, Boyd Gaines; Karen Ziemba; Susan Stroman
Ellis Nassour
Writer Bio: 
Ellis Nassour contributes entertainment features here and abroad. He is the author of "Rock Opera: the Creation of <I>Jesus Christ Superstar</I>" and "Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline," and an associate editor and a contributing writer (film, music, theater) to Oxford University Press' American National Biography (1999).