Celebrate Father's Day With Some of Broadway's Newest Dads (and Their Best Jokes) | Playbill

Special Features Celebrate Father's Day With Some of Broadway's Newest Dads (and Their Best Jokes)

Jordan Fisher, Michael Maliakel, Mark Evans and Justin Mortelliti, and more share thoughts on being a new parent.

There's a lot to celebrate in the month of June: the month-long Pride festival for LGBTQIA+ communities; Juneteenth, the newest federal holiday recognizing the end of slavery in the U.S., and, of course, all those June weddings. And we mustn't forget dear old dad on Father's Day.

This spring has turned up quite a little crop of new Broadway babies with first-time fathers in the biz. To celebrate Father's Day, Playbill talked with a few of Broadway's newest proud papas about the joy of parenthood. Oh, and don't worry; these new dads already got jokes. 

Dear Riley Fisher

Jordan Fisher was appearing in Dear Evan Hansen when he and wife Ellie announced that Baby Fisher was on the way. The proud parents welcomed Riley William Fisher less than two weeks ago, on June 7. 

Jordan and Riley Fisher Ellie Fisher

How did you choose the name?
Jordan Fisher:
 Ellie and I both each had a name that we loved. We liked each other’s but couldn’t get on the same page, so we decided to scrap it. Ellie came back with nine new names and there were three that we fell in love with, and one of them was Riley. It just stuck, it was an instant “that’s definitely his name” it just made sense to us, Riley William Fisher. William is my middle name and also my late grandfather’s name who I was very close to.

What has been your greatest joy as a new parent so far?
My greatest joys as a new father have honestly been spending time with my baby and getting to know him. Ellie and I have always been close but it’s wild to us that having a baby has brought us even closer. That’s been really fun, exciting and exhilarating! The idea of my family starting has been my greatest joy as a new father.

What’s your best Dad Joke?
Why did the scarecrow win an award? Because he was out standing in the field.

Larsen's Two Dads

Broadway husbands Mark Evans (Mrs. Doubtfire, Waitress) and Justin Mortelliti (Escape to Margaritaville) welcomed their long-awaited bundle of joy Larsen Jean Evans-Mortelliti on May 13, 2022.

Justin Mortelliti, Dio, Larsen, and Mark Evans Heather Gershonowitz

How did you choose the name?
Justin’s Pop-Pop, Leonard ‘Bud’ Newcomb, was a P.O.W. in WWII. He jumped on D-Day and was captured by the Germans in France and held prisoner until he escaped almost a year later. When Justin was in the 6th grade, for a social studies project, he sat down with Pop-Pop and was told the entire story of his experience in the war. Justin recorded it on a cassette tape that he discovered while was packing up his childhood bedroom a few years ago.

On the tape as Pop-Pop describes his experience, he tells many stories and mentions many men, those who fought and died, but the only one he mentions by name was a man named Larsen. They jumped together from the same plane on D-Day and found each other on the ground. Larsen went to find help and never returned. “Hearing Pop-Pop’s voice speak this name to little me way back in 1991, there was a a tiny bell that rang in my head and a ping in my heart. I knew this was my future daughter’s name. I said the name out loud.”

Soon after, Justin asked his Aunt Regina about Larsen and she immediately lit up. "Yes! Larsen was Pop-Pop’s best friend! He survived and they found one another after the war." She jumped up and grabbed an old photo album and showed Justin a weathered old black and white photo of a man sitting on a horse in a cowboy hat. "He was a cowboy from Montana who settled in South Dakota," Aunt Regina told Justin as she proceeded to show me a number of photos of Larsen and my grandfather together. After his escape, when Pop-Pop returned from the war, he married Justin’s Mom-Mom who had been waiting hopefully back home in Philadelphia, for him to be found. Her name was Jean. She was a wonderful woman. The love of his life. Jean and Larsen. When Justin told this story to his husband, Mark was immediately taken and agreed that this should be their daughter’s name. 

Mark Evans, Larsen, and Justin Mortelliti Heather Gershonowitz

What has been your greatest joy as a new parent so far?
Justin Mortelliti
: The feeling of a dream come true. To be living in that dream, finally. We have a finger painting framed in Larsen‘s bedroom that I created when I was seven years old. On the back of it I had written a note to myself making a wish on a star that one day I will be a good daddy to my children. This has always been my dream as long as I can remember. Life right now is a dream come true and I can’t get over it.
Mark Evans: The highlight of new parenthood is simply getting to know her. This ‘her’ that we’ve been calling Larsen for years has now finally arrived. We’ve dreamed of having this little one for a long time and it was a three year process from our initial conversation. When she was born, I just gasped and said, "That’s her! That’s Larsen! She’s here!" And to stare at her all day, everyday observing her in these early stages of life is nothing short of miraculous. She’s transformed our worlds and our lives already and she had no clue about it!

What’s your best Dad Joke?
Almost everything that falls out of Mark’s mouth is a Dad Joke or a pun, but for the sake of choosing one… "I had a date last night, it was perfect. Tomorrow I’ll try a grape."
Justin says the one thing we know for sure is that Larsen’s life is going to be filled with laughter...because double the dad jokes, obviously.

Nina's Debut

Michael Maliakel made his Broadway debut as Aladdin when the Disney musical returned to performances September 21, 2021. Nina Mary made her debut to the world on May 18, 2022.

Nina and Michael Maliakel

How did you choose the name?
Michael Maliakel: My wife, Sarah, and I both loved the name Nina as soon as we found out we were expecting, way before we knew the gender. We couldn't agree on a single boy name, so this baby was going to be Nina either way. Mary is my amazing mother-in-law's name and was also my maternal grandmother's name. She passed away this last Thanksgiving, and naming our baby Mary felt like a no-brainer to honor them both.

What has been your greatest joy as a new parent so far?
I will never forget the way Nina went silent and fixed her eyes on mine the first time I sang to her—sheeesh. But more than anything, it's time. I'm so grateful to have a solid chunk of time to be fully present in these really special first weeks with my family.

What’s your best Dad Joke?
Not a joke, but pretty much every time I open up a dirty diaper, I say "Well that ain't no good!" in a lousy southern accent, and at this point I think Nina's rolling her eyes even harder than her mama.

Papa Was a Temptation

In a recent case of life imitating art, Jawan M. Jackson, who played bass Melvin Franklin Ain't Too Proud -The Life and Times of The Temptations, was invited to join the actual Temptations. But that's not the only thing he's celebrating this spring. Brayden Kingslee Jackson was born April 17, Easter Sunday (Jackson's favorite holiday).

How did you choose the name?
Jawan M. Jackson
: It was a play on family names. Brayden came partially from my dad's last name which is Bray. I don't have his last name so I wanted to in some way honor him in that regard so that his name will live on. Brayden's middle name came from my partner's [Amber Wright] father's side who carries the middle name Lee. So we chose a name that honors our families' respective names, but also gives our son a name that's his own.

What has been your greatest joy as a new parent so far?
Looking at my son everyday knowing I helped create this beautiful life full of joy!

What’s your best Dad Joke?
What did baby corn say to mama corn? Where's pop corn?

A Star Is Born

Musician Justin Hicks, who wrote the original music for the play Clyde'sand wife Kenita R. Miller, Tony-nominated this season for her role in for colored girls..., introduced baby Nova Pearl on May 26. Both mom and dad are two-thirds of the music trio The HawtPlates (Justin's sister Jade is the third); we'll be watching to see if it is soon a quartet.

Nova Pearl and Justin Hicks

How did you choose the name?
Justin Hicks
: My wife Kenita chose the first name "Nova" after watching a TV program about stars. It's inspired by "supernova," of course...she got a feeling. Also, there are Stellas or Estelles in both of our families way back when. The middle name, I chose. Pearl is Kenita's aunt's middle name. She is our funniest relative in my book, so I chose that. Sort of a cute but classic name.

What has been your greatest joy as a new parent so far?
Seeing Nova change every day is incredible. She looks a little different from day to day but always like another relative. It is really something else. It's amazing! Oh and the cuddles...the cuddles are epic!

Bret & Stephen's Little Beau

Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna have been together for 15 years and have ten Broadway credits between them. However, dads to new baby Maverick James Hanna-Shuford, born on March 26, is their first co-starring role. 

Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna with Maverick

How did you choose the name?
Bret and his twin brother, Bart, were named after the lead characters from the hit TV show, Maverick. Since we are currently living in Texas post-pandemic, we thought it seemed appropriate to name him after an old Wild West series.

What has been your greatest joy as new parents so far?
Stephen Hanna:
Looking at my son in the eyes and seeing him smile. Every day is like a new adventure in the simplest way.
Bret Shuford:
Seeing him discover the world, and showing him all of the possibilities in it.

What’s your best Dad Joke?
Hanna
: What do you call a sad cup of coffee? Depresso.
Shuford:
Where do dads get their hooks? Second-hand stores.

Waiting in the Wings

The always-busy Broadway favorite Derek Klena, now appearing in Moulin Rouge!, is already prepping for his next role: Dad. Derek and wife Elycia are expecting their first child in September.

Elycia and Derek Klena

What are you most looking forward to about parenthood?
Derek Klena:
 I’m so excited to see the way he takes in the world, what he grasps on to, and where his interests lie. Also unlimited cuddles and bear hugs!

What’s your best Dad Joke?
Where do you take someone who has been injured in a peak-a-boo accident? To the I.C.U.

Daddy's Girl

So, on this last one we're cheating just a little bit. Klay Young is not a new Broadway dad, but he is a new Broadway dad. Daughter Kara Young made her Tony-nominated Broadway debut in Clyde's, but it was Klay that stole the show at this year's Tony nominees luncheon at the Rainbow Room, where he has been on staff for 30 years. He received a standing ovation when chairman of the American Theatre Wing Emilio Sosa introduced him to the crowd. 

We asked Kara about the greatest lesson she's learned from her dad. 

Kara Young: The greatest lesson my dad taught me is that the power lies in me to create my own reality. That I am responsible for the energy I feel. That I have the key to open my universe, my destiny, and no one can take that away from me.

Kara Young and Klay Young Heather Gershonowitz
 
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