CHANHASSEN, Minn. — As actors, they set a record that may never be broken.
But Susan Goeppinger and David Anders just reached another mark of which they are equally proud.
“We didn’t think we’d make it 50 years, really,” David says.
In July, David and Susan returned to Chanhassen Dinner Theatres to celebrate 50 years of marriage.
Family and friends gathered beneath the same roof under which the actors fell in love during the early 1970s, before going on to set an endurance record that stands to this day.
From February of 1971 until June of 1993, David and Susan performed the musical “I do, I do” 7,645 times.
Their streak of 22-and-half-years still represents the longest-running professional theater production with the original cast in history.
“We had a group of kids come from their high school,” Susan says, “and I realized during the show that they were born the year we started.”
Some 700,000 people saw the show during its run at Chanhassen.
Three governors – Wendall Anderson, Al Quie and Arnie Carlson – issued proclamations saluting the couple as David and Susan extended their streak.
They posed with Mary Martin, who played the female lead in “I do, I do” on Broadway.
They appeared on NBC’s Today Show and in People magazine.
Not bad for a play initially scheduled for six weeks.
“They became as much of the story as the show itself,” says Gary Gisselman, who cast David and Susan in the musical. “They were kind of their own publicity, in a way.”
“I do, I do,” follows newlyweds Agnes and Michael through 50 years of their marriage.
When cast in the role of Michael, David had been part of the company at Chanhassen for three years, recruited by Gary from a theater in Omaha.
Susan had been acting in New York, before Gary flew in on a recruiting trip and hired her too.
“I think a lot of the reason that the show was so successful is that they were so successful and their affection for each other is so genuine,” the veteran Twin Cities director says.
David and Susan began to have feelings for each other not long after the show went into production.
“It was really a professional chemistry more than anything, and then we became friends, and then, finally, as time went by, it just blossomed,” David says.
Besides, he adds with a laugh, “’I do, I do,’ of course, is all about marriage and a bedroom and all that sort of thing. You can't go to bed with a woman that many times without getting attached to her.”
Life continued to imitate art as David and Susan had two children – a boy and a girl – just like the characters they played.
Attending “I do, I do” at Chanhassen became a tradition for married couples, who first arrived as newlyweds and later came to the show with children in tow.
David and Susan recall the night a husband in the audience brought his girlfriend to the show, only to be confronted in the theater by his wife.
“And I said, what kind of idiot takes his girlfriend to see 50 years of marriage,” David says laughing.
After their KARE 11 interview, David and Susan stood near a piano at their old stage, singing songs from “I do, I do.”
They locked eyes as they sang.
Love wasn’t an act for David and Susan, but like all married couples they occasionally argued, sometimes on show days.
“All of a sudden the fights in the show are very crisp,” David says, as both he and Susan share a good laugh.
The 1993 closing of “I do, I do” was covered extensively by Twin Cities media. One headline read “Adieu! Adieu!”
David and Susan immediately went on to play another married couple, Tevye and Golde, in Chanhassen’s production of Fiddler on Roof.
They continued acting, moved to Phoenix for 10 years, then returned to the Twin Cities where they’ve retired in Edina.
David is 85 now. Susan is 80.
The couple that was once the toast of the town, now regularly walks in anonymity at Centennial Lakes.
“That was a long time ago,” David says on their stroll.
They are proudest not of their record-setting production, but the son, daughter, and three grandchildren their union produced.
Both their children are active in Twin Cities theater. Chris plays guitar in the pit orchestra at Chanhassen. Erin works for the Guthrie and other local theaters as a sign language interpreter.
As for David and Susan, they’re still glad they said, “I do.”
“We’re still alive, still kicking,” Susan says.
“And happy,” David adds.
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