The curtain comes down at the end of the show and I hear everyone go 'Yeah! Go! Go!' I was like, 'Yeah, woo-ho! Go!' They were like, 'No, GO! GO!' —Josh Tower
NEW YORK — The night of June 17, 2014, won't be easily forgotten by Broadway star Josh Tower.
He both made his debut in "Motown the Musical" and hours later welcomed the birth of a daughter.
"It was insane," said a smiling and exhausted Tower backstage recently at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where he happily offers visitors chilled bubbly and cigars.
"I love that this is the story of our first 'Motown' baby," said Charles Randolph-Wright, the show's director. "Of course, his first night was when his wife went into labor. How could it not be?"
The night started with Tower officially stepping into the musical's lead role of Berry Gordy after just two full rehearsals. By intermission, his wife Karen was texting that she was having contractions.
By the middle of Act 2, Tower's wife texted a stage manager backstage that she was heading to the hospital but insisted that her husband not be disturbed.
"She said, 'No, don't tell Josh until the show's done. He has to be able to do this,'" her husband recalled. "She's just a rock."
The show, which tells the story of how Gordy's Motown Records empire rose and fell and then rose again, ended with Tower still somewhat in the dark about his wife's location.
"The curtain comes down at the end of the show and I hear everyone go 'Yeah! Go! Go!'" he said. "I was like, 'Yeah, woo-ho! Go!' They were like, 'No, GO! GO!'"
Tower slipped off his costume and sprinted to a waiting car that took him to St. Luke's Hospital, where his wife and mother-in-law were waiting. In a twist, it turns out their doctor, Maria Teaiwa-Rutherford, is Diana Ross' gynecologist.
A gorgeous daughter arrived at 4:45 a.m., weighing 7 pounds, 14 ounces. They named her Marlowe Rose — a mix of her parents' middle names of Arlo and Rosario. He was back at work two nights later, listening to the cast sing a suddenly appropriate tune: "My Girl."
His daughter immediately had an effect on dad — putting his scramble to be Broadway-ready in perspective: "I'm like, 'I can do these shows. It's OK.' Everything after that is fine. It's kind of like Shakespeare. Once you do Shakespeare, the rest of it is a cake walk."
Marlowe is the second child for Tower and his wife, who met on an online dating site in 2009. He was in Los Angeles doing "Parade" at the Mark Taper Forum and she was a lawyer in New York. After courting for months, they met for the first time in October that year when he flew in for 24 hours. They met downtown, chatting all day over sushi.
"Basically, the rest is history. We got along really well," Tower said. "More so than any relationship that I've ever been in before, it was really about our banter, our intelligence, our words, our inner beings — before any of the physical stuff."
Tower, who was born at the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, grew up in Ambler, Pennsylvania, while his mother taught at Temple University, which he also attended.
His first stage role was in "South Pacific" in 10th grade. "I was Soldier No. 3 from the left," he said, laughing. Tower also played football and baseball and wrestled. He was on active duty for two years in the Army and got his master's at the University of North Carolina.
He's appeared on Broadway in "Ragtime" and did a six-year stint as Simba in "The Lion King," after touring with it for a year. He and Karen also have a son, Luke, who just celebrated his second birthday.
One of those who watched while Tower celebrated both a new Broadway role and a lovely new daughter on the same night was Randolph-Wright.
"Besides excitement, you never saw the stress of it. He handled it extraordinarily," he said. "To be able to deal with that and to shine, which he does, I was just impressed."