Broadway’s Gary Mauer and Elizabeth Southard are more than just a dynamic couple on stage. When they aren’t sharing the spotlight in productions of The Phantom of the Opera or Showboat, the off-stage husband and wife are raising teenagers, teaching music to children and parents, and still managing to sell out crowds around the country. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to get to know the man behind the mask and the woman who stole his heart outside of their Great White Way credits.
After we said our hellos, we jumped right into talking about their experience with performing and their lives in the theater, and it was clear from the beginning that it is passion that drives this couple in all that they do.
Utah Symphony | Utah Opera: Have you performed in Utah or with the Utah Symphony before?
Gary: I’ve come to Utah with Les Miserables and touring with The Phantom of the Opera in 2004, and I’ve performed with the symphony at least five or six times.
Elizabeth: This will be my first time performing with the symphony.
USUO: What inspired you to become a performer?
Elizabeth: It is a disease, but we were attracted separately. We met many years ago on a cruise ship. We were cast opposite each other as a bride and groom, kismet! But before that, from a young age my mom was a singer and I just loved all things singing, and of course ended up going to college for that but I originally wanted to go into opera, and then in my 20’s musical theater stole me away!
Gary: I come from a musical family, my father is a singer, made quite an amateur hobby out of it. I grew up listening to their old cast albums and I got bit by the Broadway cast album bug and started doing musicals in high school and I did Summer Stock and performed in college and one thing lead to another and I began a professional career singing. But it was really listening to those Broadway cast albums on my parent’s stereo that started it all.
USUO: What is the most unique experience you have had while performing?
Gary: The organ that the Phantom climbs on and plays in a majestic fashion… Well, there was a piece of sharp metal on top of it and I pulled it to bring myself up onto the organ and I sliced my finger big time. I knew it got me but I didn’t know how bad and about 10 seconds later I’m pounding on the organ and I look at the keys and there is blood all over the keyboard, and at the quietest point in the show, there is a pregnant pause where there is a complete silence right before I start “Music of the Night,” and in that pregnant pause, I hear an old woman in the audience say “he’s bleeding!” and the rest of the number, I was thinking, “how do I do all the staging and choreography and not get blood on her white, silk, costume.” That was horrible. But the show must go on and it did.
Elizabeth: We’ve had to walk on water when the boat doesn’t work [during The Phantom of the Opera], and the fog is oily and one time, after I had just found out that I was pregnant with my daughter, I had gone running out on stage for the final scene and fell flat on my butt, and I remember looking into the wings and being so scared that something would be wrong. The fear that was supposed to be created for that scene was real.
USUO: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Gary: We have our pre-show habits, and they are in exact opposition of each other. If she likes black, I like white, she wants to eat before a show, I want to eat after. Our schedules and how we do things are kind of yin and yang. We just pray we stay healthy leading up to it [our performance].
USUO: You’ve performed together a ton, but which has been your favorite?
Gary: I was involved with “Phantom” for 11 or 12 years. It is like a revolving door with “Phantom” as both Raoul and the Phantom. In and out, I’m doing something else, and you can’t imagine doing another performance of “Phantom” and pretty soon you’re desperate to do “Phantom.” The largest chunk of our life was “Phantom” and to do Phantom and Christine together was wonderful, but probably for both of us was doing the Show Boat tour together. Even though it only lasted a few months, Show Boat is deeper in our hearts.
Elizabeth: [Show Boat] Being the first book musical that was integrated and the whole subject of miscegenation, there’s a lot more acting and dialog. I know for me the character is 16 and ends at 56, so it was brilliant to be able to play and work with the quality of performers, we have very fond memories.
Gary: Show Boat is a musical about a show business family performing on a boat, there’s a tie there because Beth and I met performing on a boat, and we were out there with our one child and it gave us a sense of what family is about.
Elizabeth: I was in the show before I had children and it was a much different experience with children, and having a child and then going back and doing it, it resonates a little more powerful as an actor.
USUO: You’ll be performing the Show Boat Medley while you are here? Is that the piece you are most excited to perform?
Gary: The Show Boat Medley is a great medley, but a patriotic concert is avant-garde because you’re pulling stuff you don’t do all year, some of the Irving Berlin stuff, “God Bless America,” those things that find their way into the Fourth of July.
This couple not only grew up performing, they grew close to each other performing as well. With such a fun and dynamic relationship, we decided it would be fun to play a little “Dating Game” with the couple. Here were the results:
USUO: Since you two have such a fun relationship, I thought that it would be fun to ask you a question about each other. So Elizabeth, what are Gary’s guilty pleasures?
Elizabeth: Focusing on something, like uber focused, obsessive, learning it completely, listening over and over to an album until he knows everything. Or– when he’s eating sugar– a pint of Haagen Daz.
USUO: Did she get it right?
Gary: When I’m eating sugar, I like ice cream and sweets– Ben and Jerry’s. Hey! Married 20 years and she knows me!
USUO: Hey! Well that’s good! And Gary- what role would Beth most like to perform?
Gary: Role she has done before? I know she would love to do Magnolia in Show Boat, but I know that she has recently gotten into The Light on the Piazza, the role of the mother, she has worked on it and is always looking for opportunities to perform it… she adores the score. Am I right?
Elizabeth: Yeah, I actually thought you would say the mother in Ragtime, but yeah.
While Gary and Elizabeth might be busy zipping from coast to coast performing, they also face the same challenges that all parents must face, such as working a demanding job and raising teenagers. We were lucky enough to get some insight on their wonderful family life in New Jersey.
USUO: Were you able to bring your kids with you on the road?
Elizabeth: Yes, they were homeschooled the whole time, so they could pick up and go. They were schooled in the dining room or living room, wherever. They made it possible for us to tour by homeschooling. If we would not have been able to homeschool them, we would not have been able to go on tour. Now that they are older they’re like “you’re leaving? Oh we’re staying home.” We enjoy it because we get some time together and date nights and they enjoy it because they have their own lives going on here.
Gary: Our son just started driving six months ago, so they are more self-sufficient, the longest we go though is about three days.
Elizabeth: They’re coming to Salt Lake with us, we love Salt Lake.
USUO: What are your favorite things to do here?
Gary: I’ve done many things in Utah, we never pass a chance to visit. We love to visit real estate offices.
Elizabeth: We have friends in the area, we have stayed in Sugar House and Alpine, so we’ve gotten to stay in different places, and he’s not kidding- we’ve actually had a realtor show us some places. We really love Park City too. We have lots of fun memories and pictures from when the kids were little.
USUO: Do you guys have any plans while you’re here in Salt Lake? Any places that you’d like to visit?
Gary: I have two sisters and a sister-in-law flying in from Phoenix to visit and they are staying in Park City. We will do our concerts down in the valley and will meet up with them on the 4th.
Elizabeth: We’ll connect with some friends. We have to work, we will be singing a lot and that is first priority to us, of course.
Gary: We could stay an extra week and see everything but we are incorporating this into a family vacation and are going to Phoenix afterwards. Then we will drive to Flagstaff. We spend our time in Flagstaff at my father’s cabin up there.
USUO: What is your favorite family activity?
Elizabeth: Hiking, service, we are active with our church, and we love to prepare meals for others.
Gary: Beth is a very busy voice teacher, she has a studio in our home and a private conservatory, and she’s a music together teacher. She teaches music to kids and their parent’s.
Elizabeth: Families learn to make music together instead of being consumers of music, it can be a lost art, we really need to foster the love of making music together. Get them while they are young and teach the parents to perform too, all children are born musical, whether they use it or not is the question.
As we were wrapping up our thank you’s and goodbye’s Elizabeth added that “[they] are looking forward to this very much and visiting the great country that is Utah,” and we are looking forward to having them here! Don’t miss your chances to see their captivating chemistry live on stage! They’ll be performing with the utah Symphony at Snowbasin Resort and the Deer Valley Music Festival. For tickets and more information visit deervalleymusicfestival.org. And to learn more about the guest artists visit http://www.garymauer.com and http://www.elizabethsouthard.com.