Broadway Kids: Holiday Wishes

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Broadway kids—they’re just like us. They network. They love playing dress-up. And they work hard—probably harder than most of us.

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?”

Do you all like dressing up?
Lilyana Cornell:
I like trying on new outfits. I’m a big fan of dresses!
Zell Steele Morrow: I love to wear anything I can wear—except for girl clothes. [Laughs] Because I’m not a girl! I like dressing up and doing like fashion shows.
Bobbi MacKenzie: I usually wear shirts and jeans. I love jeggings, or I like to wear wedges, high-heel sneakers, or high-heeled boots. I love to wear boots. I like to wear dresses too sometimes—when I need to wear them. I just love dressing up—I think I have a lot of style!
[Everyone laughs]

Thanksgiving is coming up this month. What do you love about the holiday?
MacKenzie:
I love the food! I love the family, and last year, we actually fed needy people for Thanksgiving. And then we went to a great restaurant that my dad’s friends own.
Morrow: I always go to my grandma’s house and everyone eats together and we watch the football games. I just love the food that she makes. She makes whipped cream for everyone. We make turkey and pumpkin pie. We eat everything for Thanksgiving and it’s so good! Oh my gosh!
Jeremy T. Villas: I like the food! I used to eat turkey, but now, I’m a vegetarian and so usually I can’t have pumpkin pie or milk or anything. My mom makes really good cornbread but I’m allergic to milk and peanuts and stuff so it’s really hard for me to eat stuff.

What are you thankful for?
Noah Hinsdale:
I’m thankful for my family and for a great education. I’m thankful for my mom and my dad because without them I wouldn’t be here today.
MacKenzie: I love my family. They’re amazing.
Villas: I’m thankful for my family.
MacKenzie: Can we talk about our favorite Broadway plays?

Sure. What are you favorite Broadway shows?
Hinsdale:
Kinky Boots is my favorite Broadway musical ever. I love the music. It’s so good.
Cornell: I have two. No I have three! I like Matilda a lot and I also like On Your Feet. [She does a little dance from the show.] The other Cosette is the understudy for young Gloria. And I also like Finding Neverland though I’ve never seen it.
Villas: I like Wicked. Oh my gosh, it’s such a good show! And I also like On the Town because I really like dancing and my favorite type of dance is ballet. And I really want to see Misty Copeland in it. Misty Copeland is my inspiration for dancing.
MacKenzie: I have a couple. I obviously love Wicked. I also love Matilda. I’ve never seen Les Mis but I know it’s really good so I also love that.  I also love Fun Home, even though I didn’t see it.
Morrow: Thank you so much! Okay, I have a lot. So I’m just going to name them one by one. I love Matilda so much. My sister was in the original Broadway cast. I’ve seen it 53 times! I just don’t have any words for it. And then I have a lot more. I love Mamma Mia. And I just love Finding Neverland. It’s amazing.
Hinsdale: Thank you!

What do you love about being on Broadway?
Villas:
I love playing a different personality, playing a different role instead of being myself. I can be somebody else.
Mackenzie:
Who are you?
Villas:
Oh I’m young Lola. I dance around in heels!
Cornell:
I play young Cosette and young Eponine. They’re the exact opposite. Young Cosette is all rags and she’s dirty and little Eponine is prancing with her mom in a beautiful dress and her little bonnet.
Morrow:
I just love performing for the people because it might have been their first show that they’ve ever seen or their last show that they’re ever going to see! I just love how they come to see us because they could have picked any other Broadway show.

PlaybillBSG_Kids_ClosingStyling by James Brown III
Hair by Aubrey Mae Davis
Makeup by Steve Schepis