Kids are big business on Broadway. Eight shows currently use them, and at least three child actresses (Andrea McArdle (Annie), Daisy Eagan (The Secret Garden), Anna Kendrick (High Society)) have been nominated for Tony Awards (Eagan won).
There are family child actor dynasties like the Bowens -- Alex, Andrea, Cameron, Graham and Melissa have all performed on Broadway. There are even shows and recordings dedicated to the industry, like The Broadway Kids Sing Broadway.
But what does being one of these Broadway babies entail?
Auditions, just like any other actor, sometimes arranged specifically by an agent. Ragtime's Anthony Blair Hall (The Little Boy) and Dara Paige Bloomfield (The Little Girl at matinees) were called in by managers to audition for the producers.
A veteran Little Boy understudy on the Ragtime tour (although he never had the opportunity to go on), 11 year old Hall played Tiny Tim in 1998's A Christmas Carol with Roger Daltrey as well as Scrooge at age eight in 1997's production. Bloomfield has performed with her drama club and attended the Lee Strasberg Institute for almost two years (she had to quit this year because of scheduling conflicts with the show) and takes private acting and voice lessons. Ragtime marks both of their Broadway debuts. That first night on Broadway was an experience. Bloomfield called it "kind of freaky," and both she and Hall recalled it was the first time either had actually run through the whole show on the Ford Center's stage.
"It was funny because the stage was about 10 feet longer and about 10 feet wider....there were sets that were cut out of the tour," Hall said of his disorientation.
When they aren't on stage, the kids of Ragtime have a specially reserved area between the male and female ensemble dressing rooms called "kids camp," where they can hang out, relax, play games or watch videos. Hall and Pierce Cravens (the matinee Little Boy and understudy) just got a Sony Playstation and now play video games. Bloomfield reads, plays cards or knits, a new skill taught to her by a Ragtime friend.
But it's life out on the boards that is the best part of Broadway for Hall. He said, "It's exciting to be on stage with the lights in your face and the next minute, running backstage for a quick change."
That's why his favorite part of Ragtime is the top of the second act when he is in the first three scenes and the entr'acte. Hall finds doing the show to be the easiest part of his job. The hardest part? "Getting up in the morning!"
Bloomfeld said her co-workers are the best perk of acting on Broadway. "The people are the best. They are so nice to me. And the other four kids- -- it's really fun."
Some of the Broadway babies choose to follow McArdle (currently starring as Belle in Beauty and the Beast) into adulthood careers. Bloomfield would like to. "A lot of my friends say 'No, I don't want to do this. I want to become a lawyer'. I don't know why. I'd rather be this than a lawyer. This is funner!"
Seven other shows on Broadway feature kids in the cast including:
Annie Get Your Gun
Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King
The Sound of Music
There's even one show in New York entirely dedicated to theatre kids: The Broadway Kids Sing Broadway, playing Saturday and Sundays in the morning and early afternoon.
The current Broadway Kids cast includes : Jonathan Bleicher (currently Chip in Beauty and the Beast), Alex Bowen, Andrea Bowen (currently Marta in The Sound of Music), Jillian Bowen, Barry Cavanaugh, Tavia Jefferson, James Johnson, Alexandra Kiesman, Cassidy Ladden, Karina LaGravinese, Elizabeth Lundberg (who regularly plays the Little Girl in Ragtime), Greg Raposo, Evan Silverberg, Christopher Trousdale (currently Friedrich in The Sound of Music), JJ Tucci, Brandon Uranowitz, and Jenna Ushkowitz.
For ticket information on Broadway Kids, call (212) 967-7079. For Broadway shows, contact Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200 or Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100.
-- By Christine Ehren