Matt Doyle & Alex Finke: Seriously Silly
by Suzy Evans
photography by Jenny Anderson
The first time Matt Doyle and Alex Finke met, they kissed. It was at their callback for Sweeney Todd, in which the pair play Antony and Johanna at the Barrow Street Theatre, and they had to sing “Kiss Me,” the lovers second act duet.
“I was in there reading with another girl,” Doyle recalls. “And she came in, and the first thing I said to her was ‘Are you comfortable with me kissing you?’”
“And I was like, ‘Yeah, of course,’” Finke says.
The friendship and onstage chemistry as the doomed lovers in Stephen Sondheim’s epic about the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and sitting across the table at Starbucks in the West Village, the pair effortlessly completes each other’s sentences. In fact, it’s not clear whether they were similar before they met and that’s why they get on so well or if they’ve just started to rub off on each other. (For one, they both like whiskey, black iced coffee, and will gravitate toward a t-shirt and jeans in an outfit jam.)
“I have not had this kind of relationship with anyone I’ve played opposite before,” Finke says.
“I’m never not happy to see her,” Doyle adds. “You know how you come to work, and there’s always a day where somebody annoys you just because you work so close together especially in theater. But Alex is always the ying to my yang.”
The two sat down with Broadway Style Guide to share what makes their onstage romance work and why they can’t stop laughing.
When you first got cast in these roles, did you do anything before rehearsals started or outside of rehearsal to get to know each other?
Matt Doyle: No, not really. I knew her boyfriend (Joe Carroll) from before. We played poker together.
Alex Finke: And I knew his boyfriend (Max Clayton) from before just through mutual friends.
Matt: And then we just dived right in and hit it off very quickly. And within two days of getting to know each other, all of sudden it was like, being complete nerds and weirdos.
Alex: Total nerds!
What do you nerd out about?
Alex: It’s not so much specific things we nerd out about. I just feel like we both have very weird, goofy, off-the wall sense of humors.
Matt: Like inner clowns that we bring out of each other and so we laugh like 90 percent of the time that we’re together. And when we’re not laughing, we’re bitching about things that we need to just vent about.
Alex: Something I appreciate about our relationship too is we’re so comfortable with each other that if I ever have an issue or if he’s like “you’re driving me crazy,” I’m like, okay sorry, and then it’s just over. There’s nothing dramatic about it.
Matt: We’re very blunt with one another. And never offended.
And both of your boyfriends are in Bandstand. Is that weird?
Alex: It’s great! It’s really fun that we’ve gotten to come to work and share in our boyfriends’ excitement together.
Matt: And our boyfriends are totally a little jealous of our relationship, which we kind of love.
Alex: I do. I love it so much. ‘Cause Joe’s not a jealous person at all.
Matt: Max is like, “Wow you guys hit it off so well.”
What is the secret to falling in love onstage?
Matt: Honestly, for me, it’s being comfortable enough that you can be that honest with each other. When you’re dating someone and falling in love with them, part of the chemistry is sometimes it just works and what doesn’t work, you talk about those things. And if you can’t talk about those things, you’re usually not going to continue to date that person. So we already had that really, really warm, friendly chemistry with each other, but any time something didn’t work, it was like “Oh that feels weird.” Okay, move on and then laugh about it and change it and never be offended by.
Alex: To me, being comfortable with each other offstage is really important. Just because when you’re out there in from of everybody, there’s a level of transparency that you have to have, but especially in our show, there’s no hiding from anybody.
Do you have pre-show rituals together?
Alex: We normally have a specific moment in the pre-show that we go “Hey how you doin’? Off we go.” (Editor’s note: The cast comes out and greets the audience in the space before the show begins.)
Matt: And just do a check in with each other. It’s usually a goofy dance to each other or something.
Have you ever had any onstage mishaps together during the show?
Alex: So many!
Matt: First of all, our kiss is so fast and so passionate in the choreography that many of times, we’ve hit heads really, really hard.
Alex: Bumped heads, teeth, noses, missed mouths.
Matt: Bitten each other. Sometimes I rip out her hair clips.
Alex: I have hair extensions so sometimes he’ll grab my head and then the clip will go pop, and he’ll have to hold my hair on.
Matt: We are not like the graceful lovers by any means.
Alex: I joke that I almost kill him every day.
Matt: I feel like even as kids we were both like the weird, awkward ducklings that maybe became a swan. I don’t know.
Alex: I’m still waiting. I’m still molting.
Had you had fun interactions with audience members?
Matt: One night, in the dead silence…
Alex: This is like a cast favorite.
Matt: We were all sitting at the end of “Johanna” in the second act, and it’s dead silent and I’ve got tears in my eyes, I’m very dramatic. And this girl who’s sitting less than a foot away from me just says out loud to me in the most ditzy, dry tone, “You’re amazing.”
Did you break?
Matt: I just was like, deep breaths, didn’t break, kept going. But as soon as I got offstage, we were all already quoting it.
Alex: I get a common mishap that happens a lot. I don’t know what it is about me or how I handle props, but I have a lot of people take props out of my hand.
Matt: And I’ve never had it happen!
Alex: In “God That’s Good,” we have all this choreography with the plates, and at one point, I pick it up and put the plate in my hand and we do choreography, and someone took the plate out of my hand. I had to like grab it back and keep going. People take props out of my hand all of the time.
What show would you love together?
Alex: We have a bunch.
Matt: We want to play opposite each other again. I would be crushed if we didn’t.
Alex: Me too.
Matt: Maybe A Light in the Piazza somewhere. We want to keep this going.
Do you have any favorite onstage or onscreen couples?
Matt: I know everyone was really over it after four movies, but Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. That can go on. They’re great.
Alex: I’ll side with you on that.
Do you have any favorite offstage memories together?
Matt: We were all invited over to Sondheim’s house within the first two weeks of rehearsal, and that was amazing. He threw a dinner party for all of us and it was gorgeous, and his home is beautiful and he was so welcoming and kind. And we were leaving the party—because we all arrived together and we all left together—we were all talking about our different experiences. And Brad Oscar said, “It was like the gayest Sleep No More ever!”
Alex: That was probably the first time we all really hung out outside of work. And our trains were down, so you and I took a super long walk and geeked out, which was really fun.
Matt, what is something people would be surprised to learn about Alex, and Alex what is something people would be surprised to learn about Matt?
Matt: Oh! That she belts. Everything that she’s played since she first got to the city has been a blonde soprano. And she’s actually a brunette who belts her face off.
Alex: Thank you! What a nice advertisement.
Matt: Well, I want you to belt in your next show. We should do Thoroughly Modern Mille! And that she does comedy really well.
Alex: You’re just the best, I don’t know what people don’t know about you. I just think you’re the best person ever, do people know that?
Matt: That’s dumb.
Alex: It’s not dumb. Do people know how goofy you are?
Matt: I think people think I’m a lot more serious than I am.
Alex: I think you present yourself in a way that you’re a bit more reserved sometimes.
Matt: But I am an absolute nut job backstage.
Alex: Yeah, in the best way.
Matt: We like chase each other backstage and it’s usually instigated by me. We play with each other…
Alex: Like little kids, like brother and sister.
Matt: If you gave us Legos, we’d probably play with those backstage.
Alex: That sounds great. I’ll bring some tomorrow.
Matt, what is one word to describe Alex. Alex, what is one word to describe Matt?
[After much deliberation]
Matt: The first thing that comes to mind is loveable. I’m so endeared by so many things about her.
Alex: As a scene partner, I would say selfless for sure.
Matt: But as a person?
Alex: [Jokingly] But as a person, you’re really selfish. So I can’t say that.
Matt: That’s kind of true! That’s actually brilliant. [Laughs]
Alex: Passionate. I’m going to go with passionate. Because you’re like that in so many aspects. Passionate, done. Final answer. I’m pleased.
“The Onstage Lovers Game”
We asked Alex and Matt to answer the following questions for themselves and for the other person. Let’s see how well they did.
What is your go-to drink?
Alex’s answer for Matt: Whiskey
Matt’s answer for Alex: Whiskey
How do you take your coffee?
Matt: Black iced
Alex’s answer for Matt: Black (Venti cold brew)
Alex: Black or with almond milk
Matt’s answer for Alex: Black iced
What is your favorite food?
Matt: Chicken broccoli/protein plate
Alex’s answer for Matt: Protein box
Alex: Ice cream
Matt’s answer for Alex: Steak and potatoes
Alex: Steak and potatoes?
Matt: Yeah, I thought maybe since you grew up on a farm. [Laughs]
What is your go-to outfit in a pinch?
Matt: T-shirt and jeans
Alex’s answer for Matt: T-shirt and Jeans
Alex: T-shirt and jeans
Matt’s answer for Alex: Silky top and jeans
What is your favorite song in Sweeney Todd?
Matt: “Johanna” (Act II)
Alex’s answer for Matt: “God That’s Good”
Alex: Shifting favorites: “Kiss Me” “Opening Ballad”
Matt’s answer for Alex: “God That’s Good
Alex: Oh, I knew that! I knew your favorite song.
Matt: We both have fun doing “God That’s Good!”
Alex: Especially now that we can do it! It was really hard to learn. So there’s a sense of victory.
What is your dream role?
Matt: Claude in Hair
Alex’s answer for Matt: Fabrizio in A Light in the Piazza
Alex: Clara in A Light in the Piazza
Matt’s answer for Alex: Eliza in My Fair Lady
Matt: We were talking about wanting to do A Light in the Piazza together!
Alex: That’s why I put that down. I think my real dream role is originating something.
Alex’s answer for Matt: Costa Rica
Alex: Italy or Thailand
Matt’s answer for Alex: Hawaii
Dream dinner date?
Matt: Somewhere my boyfriend can be happy and full
Alex’s answer for Matt: Max
Matt’s answer for Alex: Gourmet farm-to-table place in the village
Styled by Kayla Foster
Clothing by Reiss Clothing, Minnoji, Hydrogen Luxury Sportswear, Daniel Hechter
Shoes by Pour La Victoire, Florsheim
Make-Up by Erin Acker