New York isn’t known for its friendliness — which is why finding your tribe in this city is such a special rite of passage. This chosen family help you move to your fourth-story walk-up. They comfort you after a bad breakup. And, if you’re really lucky, they perform with you (or near you, at least). We caught up with three pairs of theater BFFs to hear about how their paths crossed, how their friendship has made life better & why they love Taco Bell Cantina.
Danny Miller and Kristen Oei (both in King Kong)
“Kristen and I first met last summer at the first rehearsal of King Kong Alive on Broadway at the New 42 studios,” Miller recalled. “I knew from that first moment that Danny had a sweetness in his soul,” Wei added.
“Since I was plucked from Down Under to reprise my role as the face of Kong, I barely know the city, nor do I really know many people aside from a handful of fellow puppeteers. Seeing that Kristen is now on her fourth Broadway show, she has really been my guide to all things Broadway and NYC in general. We can barely walk a block without her saying hello to an ex cast-member or a choreographer that she worked with,” Miller explained. Oei added that they spend more time together outside of work than backstage. Favorite activities include going to the movies, dropping by Haswell Greens to see a stellar cover band called the Savage Pianos, and dining at Taco Bell Cantina (where Miller reportedly scores Cinnabon Delights for free). “It’s refreshing to have such an open and honest relationship in an industry that tends to be competitive and even biting,” Miller said.
Brad Oscar (Broadway Bounty Hunter) and John Treacy Egan (most recently My Fair Lady)
Though their paths first crossed in 1993 when John Treacy Egan went to see his friend, Christine Pedi, in Forbidden Broadway, both he and Brad Oscar attribute their first real encounter to the pre-Broadway tour of Jekyll and Hyde two years later. “We hit it off right away, he is one of the funniest people alive, and such a good man,” Oscar recalled. “I understood why everyone spoke so well of him, and you’re always ready to hate that guy! Once the tour ended, we’d go to the movies, have dinner, and then we started rehearsals for Jekyll on Broadway and worked together for the next four years!”
The pair went on to appear in both Jekyll and The Producers together. “We would cut up at understudy rehearsal so badly that when we would have to go on together as our understudy assignments, we couldn’t make eye contact. I replaced Brad as Franz Liebkind in The Producers and understudied him as Max Bialystock. What a treat to perform with your best bud. A simple look can communicate so much,” Egan remembered.
Though they aren’t currently on stage together at the moment, the BFFs can often be found at Joe Allen’s (though they mourn the loss of the “house account” the restaurant recently discontinued).
Tiffany Engen (Rock of Ages) and Brooke Engen (Beetlejuice)
Friends are the family you choose for yourself, unless the friend you choose happens to also be your family. Enter Tiffany and Brooke Engen, twin sisters who currently perform just a few blocks from each other. Tiffany, who is older by one minute, stars in the Rock of Ages revival at New World Stages, while her younger sister Brooke performs in Beetlejuice at the Winter Garden Theatre.
“Our mom and dad put us in dance classes when we were 3 years old bc we couldn’t stand still. We both loved it from the get go. We would make up dances together, put on skits and make up characters to play,” Tiffany said. “It was so fun bc between the 2 of us we could be the writer, director, choreographer, and actor. We got to wear all the hats!” Brooke added. Over the years, the pair found themselves going up for the same roles. “It feels normal to us bc for any job, you are auditioning with hundreds of girls (many of whom look like you),” Tiffany explained. For her part, Brooke noted that they’ve never been competitive with each other — just with everyone else. “We just want one of us to get the job!” she explained. “Fun fact: When Tiffany left the Vegas company of Rock of Ages to play Lauren in Kinky Boots, I replaced her as Regina in Vegas.”
The best thing about performing so close to each other now? Back up supplies. “It’s nice to know that if ever I needed something or forgot something….chances are, she has it at her dressing station at her theatre,” Tiffany said. In between shows they can be found at the (healthy) Juice Generation… or (the decidedly less healthy) Schmackary’s. Tiffany explained, “There’s nothing a cookie can’t fix.”
A version of this story first appeared in W42St magazine. Sign up for their weekly newsletter here!