Every year on Mother’s Day, LaChanze’s two daughters make her breakfast in bed and then spend the whole day celebrating with her.
“They literally stop the world for me that day,” said LaChanze sitting next to her oldest daughter, Celia Rose Gooding in their Westchester home.
“Because you deserve it,” the 20-year-old replied.
This year, they weren’t all supposed to be together. Her youngest, Zaya, was supposed to be away at college but because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mother’s Day worked out in LaChanze’s favor.
“Mother’s Day is a big deal for our family,” she explained of the joyous tradition. “When they were younger, all the women in our family would get together and have a Mother’s Day brunch. This year we’ll be Zooming it.”
In honor of Mother’s Day, Broadway Direct spoke with a few Broadway favorites — Tony Award-winner LaChanze and her daughter, Celia Rose Gooding (Jagged Little Pill), Broadway producer Daryl Roth and her son, president of Jujamcyn Theaters Jordan Roth, and Jessica Rush (Tina – The Tina Turner Musical) — about how their families are celebrating the holiday during this time of social distancing.
Supporting Each Other Through Highs and Lows
LaChanze and Celia Rose Gooding are spending their time in self-quarantine at home together while Broadway remains shut down. Sleeping in is getting up after 10 AM for Gooding, who was in the middle of her Broadway debut. She was starring as Frankie in the musical Jagged Little Pill, an original story about a suburban Connecticut family’s inner conflict set to Alanis Morrisette’s music.
Breakfast – a variation of sausage, pancakes, eggs, bacon, or waffles – is already prepared by Gooding by the time LaChanze wakes up around 10:30 AM, since she stays up late binge-watching TV shows or reading for her book club. It’s food they typically don’t eat while performing. “I think we’re trying to capitalize on the fact that we’re not working and doing eight shows a week,” explained Gooding. “I think we’re happy that we get to fully, fully feed ourselves things that may not be great to put in your body for your jumping around on stage.”
Some might think there’s a bit of pressure when mom is a Tony Award-winning actress but for Gooding, it’s helpful to have someone with decades of knowledge at hand. LaChanze noted when Gooding wasn’t taking care of herself on stage as well as she should.
“The advice I would always try to give her is to remember to breathe,” LaChanze said. “Remember that you like doing this and this is fun. Enjoy it. Try to click into that. It will help with the nerves. It will help with the self-doubt. My number one rule is do not compare yourself to anyone.”
And when it comes to rehearsals, Gooding doesn’t show her mother anything until she’s confident it’s something good enough to showcase.
“She is my mother first, of course, but she’s also a Broadway legend – royalty, star, icon. There’s no pressure with that – it’s only just a driving force in my belly for me to put out something that I’m super proud of and something I can put to my family name,” Gooding said.
The two made headlines this past winter as they were both starring in musicals at the same time. For a mother and daughter in show business, it doesn’t always line up that way.
LaChanze played the Ghost of Christmas Present/Mrs. Fezziwig in a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
On show days, LaChanze drove into the city while Gooding took an earlier train since she liked to get to the theater a bit earlier than her mother. Since A Christmas Carol let out earlier, LaChanze would get in the car, drive around to the Broadhurst Theatre, where Jagged Little Pill was playing, to wait for Gooding.
“[I’d] watch the audience come out, watch the people lined up to do stagedooring and then watch her come out. It was such a treat for me to watch that every night,” LaChanze recalled of her routine.
“I didn’t know you felt that way,” Gooding said in awe.
“It brought me so much joy,” echoed LaChanze.
A Parent’s Love for Broadway Passed Down Through Generations
Joy is how Kinky Boots producer Daryl Roth described sharing theater experiences with her family.
One recent outing she recalled with her son Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters, is seeing Ian McKellen in a one-man-play last November at the Lyceum Theatre.
“Anything we would see together, gave us an opportunity to talk about whatever the subject that the play or musical was” Daryl said.
They also saw La Cage Aux Folles in 1983. “We have really indelible memories of going back and seeing some of those dressing rooms that were covered with all of the fabulousness of La Cage,” Jordan noted of one of his early theater memories.
But it was a trip to Williamstown, Massachusetts where Jordan, age 11 or 12, discovered a new level of his passion for the arts. That summer, Daryl was workshopping the show, Closer Than Ever. “It was my first production, and it was all very new and exciting,” said Daryl. “Being able to share it with Jordan was wonderful.”
“It was this amazing transition of fan to professional,” explained Jordan of when Daryl became a producer. ”It was sharing this love of theater as fans and then this bridge of what was becoming this extraordinary career.”
Years later when Jordan made his first professional producing debut with The Donkey Show, a disco-interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at El Flamingo Nightclub, his mother was there to celebrate his success in following in her footsteps. “I was the best cheerleader,” Daryl recalled of the hit that ran for six years.
“My mother loved it and was so excited about it,” explained Jordan. “[It] probably wasn’t a show she would have done herself, so I think she was able to just enjoy it and encourage, not nudge.”
These days, with theater being performed virtually, she and Jordan keep up their discussions through FaceTime, phone calls, emails and text.
That’s how Mother’s Day will be spent, too. The Roth family typically celebrates with a meal and a Broadway show, but this year will be challenging. “It will be a FaceTime Mother’s Day for me,” Daryl said sadly who won’t get to see her children or grandchildren in person due to social distancing. She also lost her mother Sylvia Atkins, 97, this past winter, so this will be the first Mother’s Day without her.
“She was the one who instilled theater in all of us, I would say, through the generations,” Daryl boasted about her mother’s legacy.
Spending Time at Home
With Broadway shut down, it’s giving so many in the theater community more time to spend at home with their families.
For Tina – The Tina Turner Musical actress Jessica Rush, that meant quickly booking a flight with her 5-year-old daughter Elliot across the country to be with her husband and Broadway star, Eric Anderson (Pretty Woman), who was in the middle of Fly at La Jolla Playhouse near San Diego. It was a bigger space to live in than their Inwood apartment the couple also share with Rush’s parents.
“We’ve been here seven weeks which is wild to me,” she said. “It almost feels like the days are long, but the years are short.”
The first few weeks were rough. Rush filled her days by making sure Elliot was continuing with her remote learning, keeping her occupied and taking care of Anderson at the same time. They believe they both had the coronavirus, but were never tested for it. Rush felt some of the symptoms: body aches and she lost her taste and smell. She says Anderson was hit with extreme fatigue.
“There was a solid month he could not engage in anything. He never had a fever, but he had nausea, the headaches, the fatigue. He would sleep all day long and his breathing was an issue. He couldn’t do much at all.”
Without a set schedule of eight shows a week, Rush takes solace in the regularity of her “Mama’s Talkin’ Loud” podcast.
At first, it was tough for Rush to focus her energy on anything else besides just getting through the day. She hasn’t gone over her scenes in Tina much. She plays Rhonda in the biomusical about Tina Turner’s life at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. “As artists, we think Oh I should be making something but the truth is, I have no time. Even when I say to Elliot, ‘Alright, well you want to have quiet time?’ Or, ‘I’m going to put on the TV so that mom can do some stuff.’ She’s still coming over every few minutes like, ‘Look at this Mom, what’s you know, has a question about such and such. So I don’t have a lot of time to focus.”
There are no set plans for Mother’s Day but she does admit she loves surprises.
“No pressure,” she jokes of her husband. “I am hoping it’s an easy day. What would be lovely is to sleep in, meditate and perhaps I could actually read some of the books that I’ve been trying to read. I have a feeling there will probably be some sort of poached egg moment with hollandaise sauce because I love that. Elliott let it slip the other day that she planted some seedlings and those are Mother’s Day flowers.”
Rush has this advice for other moms to help get them through this tough time: “Be gentle with yourself. We are trying to juggle all the balls, just to keep our homes running, to keep our kids learning, occupied and well fed.
“On top of that, the anxiety and the stress is a lot to handle. I think what we can do for ourselves mostly is to grant ourselves some grace and recognize that this is not forever.”
For children, “The best present to give your mom this year is safety,” advised Celia Rose Gooding.
As a producer and a mother, Daryl Roth hopes there will come a time soon when mothers, children and grandchildren can celebrate experiences in the theater again.
“They need the joy and a sense of community. We all need to feel comfortable and safe,” she added.