Growing Up Broadway: Meet Kid Actors From Cat, Annie, Matilda, Drood and Newsies

By Michael Gioia
01 Feb 2013

Jack Broderick in Into the Woods.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Like Lucas, Matilda The Musical's Jack Broderick and The Mystery of Edwin Drood's Nicholas Barasch relish the fact that they're sharing the stage with such talents. Broderick, who will turn 13 by the time Matilda begins previews March 4, starred as the narrator in the 2012 Shakespeare in the Park production of Into the Woods. "It was fun," he says, "because we had Amy Adams and Donna Murphy and Denis O'Hare, and they were really nice and welcoming." On the other hand, Barasch, 14, admitted that he was "so nervous, especially when Chita [Rivera] walked in" on his first day of rehearsal for Edwin Drood.

With greatness, however, comes great responsibility, and all five actors dish about balancing school and social lives while starring on the Great White Way. "I mean, it gets to be stressful, but you just breathe deep," explains Broderick during a rehearsal for Matilda. A typical rehearsal for the child ensemble of the new musical consists of "school" in the morning and learning material for the show in the afternoon.

As per Actors' Equity Association guidelines, child performers who haven't finished high school must be provided with an accredited tutor from the production's point of origin until one week after opening night. This applies to original cast members of Broadway shows, tours, or out-of-town tryouts.

After opening, some actors continue to be home-schooled, some return to public school, and some take part in independent studies. "I used to be in a public school when I [performed] at the Met Opera," says Newsies' Lucas, "and they didn't really like me going to rehearsals all of the time, so my dad and I sat down, and we created a spreadsheet — how much time we're spending at school — and we realized that home-schooling was a better option."

Nicholas Barasch and Robert Creighton in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
photo by Joan Marcus

For Cat On a Hot Tin Roof's Leigh, being around her peers far outweighs the hectic hours of late-night shows and early-morning school days. "I went to school on Tuesday," she says, "and I thought, 'People my age! They exist!'"

Barasch, who plays the Deputy in the acclaimed, and extended, revival of Edwin Drood — and who has yet to begin high school — says, "I will probably go to high school in March when [the show] ends. I would definitely say I'm uneasy because everyone has already settled into the school, and I'm the newcomer. I'm sure the first week is going to be terrifying, but after that I'm sure it will be fine."

"I do an independent study through my school district in California," explains Annie's Young, "so I still can do all of the homework that my friends are doing, which is cool because if I'm stuck on something I can ask them."

Speaking of school, earnings from the actors' Broadway careers can provide a nice foundation for a college education. New York state law requires 15 percent of a child's gross earnings to be placed in a trust fund that can be accessed in his or her adult life.

For now, though, soaking up life on Broadway — the Mecca of theatre and stomping ground of legendary performers — is the only thing on their minds: Thunderous applause. Standing ovations. Signing autographs. Television appearances. Award ceremonies.

"For right now, I love being an actor," says Barasch. "I still can't believe it. Every day I think, ''What am I doing?!'"

(This feature appears in the February 2013 issue of Playbill. staff writer Michael Gioia's work also appears in the news, feature and video sections of Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)