On a Thursday afternoon, just after school and before evening performances, five child actors meet Playbill and Broadway Style Guide in Chelsea for a photoshoot. Even though they're all in different shows, it's amazing how many of them already know each other. Lilyana Cornell and Jeremy T. Villas hang out because their parents are friends. Villas and Zell Steele Morrow take ballet class together. Morrow and Noah Hinsdale have both played the same role in Fun Home. And Bobbie MacKenzie is new to the gang.
"Hey! You guys won the Tony Award!" exclaims MacKenzie to Morrow when they first meet. MacKenzie stars as Tamika in School of Rock – The Musical, which opens on Broadway next month, and Morrow plays John Bechdel, younger brother to Alison Bechdel, in the 2015 Tony winner Fun Home.
Morrow gently grabs MacKenzie's elbows. "Yes!" he exclaims. "And you know what? I think you're going to get one this year."
The kids run around the studio, excited to try on clothes and get their hair and makeup done. You'd think after dressing up for their jobs, they'd be sick of it.
"I love trying on new outfits!" Cornell, who plays both young Eponine and young Cosette in Les Misérables, says. "I love to wear headbands!" (She almost shrieks with glee when the stylist decides to reinvent a bowtie as a headband for one of her looks.)
"My favorite outfit is wearing suspenders and bow ties!" says Villas, who plays young Lola in Kinky Boots.
The kids can't stop gushing over each other, and it seems like adults could learn a thing or two about their generosity of spirit.
"I love being on Broadway because I get to perform with really cool actors like Laura Michelle Kelly and Anthony Warlow and Matthew Morrison," says Hinsdale, who plays Michael in Finding Neverland. "It's really cool to learn from them because they're really experienced."
When asked about their favorite plays, each of them names the other's shows — even if they haven't seen them. MacKenzie loves Fun Home; Morrow loves Finding Neverland; Hinsdale loves Kinky Boots; Villas loves Les Misérables; and Cornell also loves Finding Neverland. They all want to see School of Rock – The Musical, but finding time to see a show can be tough.
And with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, they're all feeling pretty grateful to be on Broadway, even if their schedules are packed.
"I am so thankful for my family because they are very supportive, and they're the ones who are helping me through all this," says Morrow. "I wouldn't even be in New York right now if it wasn't for my family!"
While they're all grateful for food and family and God, there is one thing they all want for the holidays: Hamilton tickets. When Morrow mentions that he got to see the show, a collective sigh of jealousy permeates the group.
"You saw Hamilton?" Villas says. "I heard it's all rap."
And then Hinsdale asks what everyone else — adults included — is thinking: "How do you even get seats?"
Special thanks to Macy's and Polo Ralph Lauren for providing the looks.
Watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the photo shoot here!