From JERSEY BOYS to SUMMER, one couple’s love story
It’s a San Francisco love story, far more real than the ones found this month on the Hallmark Channel. Kyli Rae and John Gardiner, co-stars of SUMMER: THE DONNA MUSICAL, are not only married but sealed their love in San Francisco while performing in JERSEY BOYS at BroadwaySF in 2013.
Their orbits had circled each other several times prior to finally deciding that each other was “the one”. Kyli and John initially met on the tour of JERSEY BOYS and were fast friends, but they didn’t fall in love until the show came to San Francisco. Unlike most people, John and Kyli shared their first kiss on stage in front of a couple thousand people. “It was electric. But at that point on tour we were still just friends, so neither one of us discussed it.”, recalls John.
After the tour, Kyli was cast in Clint Eastwood’s movie of JERSEY BOYS singing “My Boyfriend’s Back” and moved back to LA. When JERSEY BOYS brought Kyli to New York to make her Broadway debut as Lorraine, John and Kyli we’re reunited and went out for a drink.
While enjoying each other’s company, John got a call from his agent, letting him know that he’d just been cast in JERSEY BOYS and would be making his Broadway debut. John grabbed Kyli and kissed her right then and there and the rest is history. But while their fates seemed sealed, John missed making his Broadway debut along side Kyli by one show, as she left on a Sunday and John took over the role of Tommy DeVito the very next Tuesday.
Later, as both were once again touring the country as the stars of JERSEY BOYS, they both found themselves single and decided they’d do a road trip to San Francisco together, where the show would play for several months. That sealed the deal and soon began dating seriously and making San Francisco attractions like Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz romantic sites for their budding romance.
“It was definitely not a ‘showmance’”, John told us. “Those are the types of relationships that develop between cast members on the road”. “We knew it was deeper,” Kyli offered. “It was real”.
Soon John and Kyli found themselves doing JERSEY BOYS in Las Vegas and then cast together again as the stars of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET . Both got called by the JERSEY BOYS creative team and helped develop their new show A BRONX TALE during the workshop phases, but only John could eventually join the show on Broadway because by this point, their child, Finnegan, was born and Kyli took the time to be with their newborn.
Fast forward and John received a call from his agent about him stepping into a role in A BRONX TALE, which had now opened on Broadway. John asked if he could see the production before starting rehearsal to refresh his memory but, in one of those rare only-on-Broadway moments, he learned that it wouldn’t be possible because he’d be stepping into the show later that same day. He’d have only enough time to take a shower, have a costume fitting and review his lines.
Soon, A BRONX TALE went on tour with Kyli and John both in the company and Finnegan touring with them. A BRONX TALE played the Golden Gate Theatre with John and Kyli in the 2018-2019 BroadwaySF season.
That tour ended and before they had time to settle into their new apartment in Manhattan, SUMMER came calling one week later, giving John and Kyli another chance to work with each other as well as with the Jersey Boys team of Director Des McAnuff, Choreographer Sergio Trujillo and Music Supervisor Ron Melrose. In their respective roles (Kyli plays Donna’s music producer Giorgio Moroder and John plays Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart), they share time on stage with each other, each of them playing a pivotal character in the life of Donna Summer.
And offstage, with Finn in tow, they’re loving every moment being back in the City where they first discovered each other. And fell in love.