Matthew Morrison was living the bi-coastal life, wrapping up the final season of "Glee" in L.A. and beginning rehearsals for Finding Neverland. Peter Gallagher traded in television ("Rescue Me," "Covert Affairs") for a train ticket in On the Twentieth Century. And, David Burtka's been playing performer by day, in It Shoulda Been You, and "Single Dad" by night (while husband Neil Patrick Harris was busy with Oscar hosting duties).
Nevertheless the trio found a few minutes to grab a drink at Urbo, the hot, new bar-restaurant that's sprung up on the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue — right down the block from Gallagher's theatre (the American Airlines) and the New 42nd Street Studios (where It Shoulda Been You and Finding Neverland make preparations for their New York debuts).
"So, who's ready for an eight-show week?" I ask.
"Who's ever ready for that?" counters Morrison, with a laugh. "Well, I'm not in a schedule yet. I'm still in the rehearsal process, and it's been wild. I can't believe… Was it as fast paced?" Burtka asks the guys. "Like, [they] play a song, and you're supposed to know it?"
"Yeah," answers Morrison.
"It's gotten faster," Burtka continues. "It's been 12 years since I've done a show, and I have a little dancing, too, in this show, and I'm waking up just so sore. My legs are killing me. Your body is not used to that 10-6 every day."
Gallagher chimes in: "There's no human being who is used to eight shows a week."
But the three are off to the races. Morrison and Gallagher return to, respectively, headline as J.M. Barrie in the Peter Pan story Finding Neverland and Oscar Jaffee opposite Kristin Chenoweth in On the Twentieth Century — their first Broadway outings since 2008, when Morrison played in Lt. Joseph Cable in the revival of South Pacific and Gallagher played Bernie Dodd The Country Girl.
"I feel at home," Morrison confides. "I became a man in New York. My first Broadway show was [at] 19 years old… Being away for so long [and coming] back, I feel like a child again, and it kind of resonates with the theme of our show, but I have this real childlike spirit right now, and it's exciting to be in that place."
Now, at 36, "I'm a little more wise," he admits. "I'm not going to the bars and stuff after a show now. I am married, and my wife [model Renee Puente] is from Hawaii, so seeing this city for the first time through her eyes has been kind of exciting for me. It's her first time living in New York."
"It must be brutal for her right now," Burtka says, glancing out the window, as snow falls over Times Square in early March.
"No, she's loving it. She absolutely loves it, and thankfully! But, yeah, that's been the biggest change — just growing up and growing out of that. When I was younger, Broadway used to be like to be a big party."
Burtka adds, "Oh, yeah… When we were young, we were doing the same season [Gypsy and Hairspray], and we would see each other out at the bars all the time after the show. Almost every single night, we would go out, have a drink, and now it's like, 'Oh my God, I can't even have a drink at night or I'll be too tired in the morning.'"
After all, the dashing leading men have become household names over the years, even if they won't admit it. "I never had that realization," says Gallagher of his celebrity status. "It's either you're working or you're not, and when you're not working, you're worried about working. I remember I was doing Long Day's Journey in London with Jack Lemmon and Kevin Spacey, and when Jack would really knock it out of the park at night, he'd want to rehearse [after the show] on stage. 'Hey, hey, uh… kid… Do you want to do a little work? I'll buy you a sammichhh.' He'd say that as we were exiting after the curtain call, and we'd have these one-over rehearsals — the two of us. And, one night, when he was leaving, he said, 'Hey, kid… You got anything lined up yet?' I said, 'No, Jack.' He said, 'Me neither.' And, I thought, 'Oh my God, Jack Lemmon is worried about his next job.'"
"How old was he?" Morrison asks.
"He was 63-64 then, and so it kind of just opened my eyes. He was a household name, and I've done such a variety of things that I would never call myself a household name — [maybe] somebody that people are familiar with — but I think that's the essence of it. It's all about showing up. As Woody Allen said, 'Ninety percent of life…' I think it's 99 percent of life.
"You never arrive, and if for a moment you think you have arrived, then you're done."
The guys agree.
"You're a household name in my home," Morrison tells Gallagher.
"Well, you're a household name in my home — that's for sure," Gallagher replies. "My daughter was a huge fan of your show."
As for Burtka, "Hopefully they know my name in my house!" he says.
See even more shots from our exclusive photo shoot:
The Boys Are Back! Playbill.com's Exclusive Photo Shoot With Matthew Morrison, Peter Gallagher and David Burtka
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)