Mother's on Broadway
Mother's on Broadway

Mother’s Day Special! Broadway Moms Share Their Joys, Challenges & Show Picks

On Mother’s Day, flowers are lovely, chocolates are sweet, but nothing beats the gift of a Broadway show. And this spring, many of the most mom-friendly musicals on the Great White Way feature leading ladies who are mothers in real life. Broadway Direct asked five of these busy headliners to share what’s fun — and funny — about combining parenthood with eight shows a week.

Andréa Burns
Broadway role: Gloria Fajardo, stern and loving mother of Gloria Estefan, in On Your Feet!

Mom of: Hudson Flynn, age 12

What’s the best thing about combining parenthood with working on Broadway?
The community. For his entire childhood, Hudson has been surrounded by diverse and creative artists who inspire, encourage, and affirm him. It does, indeed, take a village, and Broadway is ours.

What’s the biggest challenge?
School hours. We are on the exact opposite schedule, and that can really compromise family time. We do the best we can. Hudson loves coming to the theatre to visit me for dinner in between shows on Saturdays. I work late hours during the school week, but I get up early so we can have breakfast and sometimes walk together to school.

Can you share a favorite backstage memory involving your son?
As a toddler, Hudson was used to seeing people in costumes, singing onstage and doing shows, but first and foremost, he understood that he was the center of my universe. When he was barely 4, Hudson was in my dressing room during the show, quietly watching a movie. I’d run up (three flights) anytime I wasn’t in a scene to check on him. He wanted to tell me all about the movie he was watching. After a few minutes, as I realized I’d have to be back onstage soon, I said, “I’m so sorry honey, I’ve got to go now.” I thought he might burst into tears, but instead, he dropped his story immediately and waved me off. “Go! Go, Mommy! You’re gonna miss your cue!” That’s when I thought, Oh, my heavens, I am raising a man of the theater without even trying! He’d learned “The show must go on” alongside “Always brush your teeth” and “Be kind to others.”

What’s the best advice about motherhood you ever got?
Trust yourself and listen to your kids — courtesy of my Aunt Eileen, who was a shining example of this. Ultimately, even the best parenting expert might not know what works for your family. I try to stay tuned in to the rhythms and nature of mine and parent from there. Bedtime stories and dinner at home together every night are beautiful rituals, but so are lazy mornings and midnight chats. I’m not partial to any one method of parenting as long as ultimately my kid feels safe, loved, capable, and free.

Why is On Your Feet! a great show for Broadway fans to take their mothers to see?
You get to experience the Estefans’ journey to superstardom through the lens of family. The sacrifices their families endured and overcame to see their dreams come true resonate deeply with our audiences and are not something they expect, given how joyful Gloria Estefan’s music is. People will recognize themselves in this story. The generational or cultural gap portrayed in the show is real, but so is the love that transcends it. Patrons often line up at the box office right after the show and say, “I’m coming back — I have to bring my parents, sister, cousins, or aunts next time!”

Carolee Carmello

CCBroadway role: Mae Tuck, matriarch of a mysterious family that lives in the woods, in Tuck Everlasting.

Mom of: Zoe Edelman, age 20, and Ethan Edelman, age 15

What’s the best thing about combining parenthood with working on Broadway?
Taking your kids to work and having lots of fun castmates who are happy to entertain them while you’re on stage. It’s almost like they’re professional entertainers!

What’s the biggest challenge?
The Broadway schedule. Because my hours are completely opposite a regular schedule, I miss lots of school functions and sporting events, which almost always happen on weeknights or weekends. Not to mention the fact that I’m not home to see my kids in the evening or put them to bed at the end of the day.

Can you share a favorite backstage memory involving your kids?
One night at Mamma Mia, my kids were visiting backstage and I wasn’t feeling very well. During the show, I was coming back to my dressing room and they saw that I was sick. My son, who was about 5 at the time, went out front with his dad to watch the finale. When he came back afterwards, he was surprised to see that I was still sick. He said, “But Mom, when you were out there on stage you were dancing and having fun!” I explained that this was my job, and even though I wasn’t feeling well, I couldn’t let the audience know. I still had to finish my show and do all the things the audience paid to see. He sat quietly for five minutes and then said, “So . . . they pay you to pretend you’re having a good time?” Yup.

What’s the best advice about motherhood you ever got?
Honestly, I don’t think any advice I got ever prepared me for how tough motherhood is. But I also could never have known how much I would love it!

Why is Tuck Everlasting a great show for Broadway fans to take their mothers to see?
Tuck Everlasting is a great show to invite your mother (or your father or your children) to because it’s about family and loving life and appreciating the people who make your life more complete. It’s such a touching and beautiful story. And besides, no one deserves a night out more than Mom!

Jessica Hecht

Broadway role: Golde, no-nonsense mother of five daughters and wife of milkman Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof.

Mom of: Stella Rose Bernstein, age 16, and Carlo Bernstein, age 14

What’s the best thing about combining parenthood with working on Broadway?
The schedule and the sense of community. I feel a great deal of comfort knowing that the crew and many of the actors are dealing with a (sometimes painful) sense of not being home for dinner and bedtime, but trying every day to make the environment family-friendly. (My kids are in my dressing room several days a week.) We share stories and advice on how to make the fewest parenting mistakes possible! Despite the fact I miss dinner and bedtime, I love knowing what time I must leave for work and what time I will return. The lack of certainty in TV and film really overwhelms me!

Can you share a favorite backstage memory involving your kids?
The best mothering story I have is that of my daughter crying audibly from my dressing room at Playwrights Horizons as I performed in Lobster Alice just months after giving birth. She was awakened by the sound of my voice over the monitor, and I could hear her from the stage and began spurting milk through my beautiful period costume. The director remarked, “I first noticed you seemed to be crying during an otherwise unemotional scene, and then I noticed your breasts.”

What’s the best advice about motherhood you ever got?
I used to think the best advice was that which the maternity nurse gave me as I exited the hospital: “Remember, enjoy your baby.” It has since been surpassed by a friend’s mother I sat with at a basketball game. I became sad chatting about how big my kids had gotten and thinking about how soon they would leave for college, and she remarked, “You didn’t have them so that they’d stay home their whole lives. You had them to go out and do something in the world.” I keep reminding myself of that.

Why is Fiddler on the Roof a great show for Broadway fans to take their mothers to see?
I love the way mothers respond to the story of the daughters making their own choices and flying into womanhood. They come backstage hugging their kids and reflecting on how they used to look at the story from the daughters’ perspective, and now the parents’ perspective is flooding over them. It’s rare to see a theatrical story that is as primal and as relevant as this one.

Rachel Tucker

RTBroadway role: Elphaba, the green witch who defies gravity en route to embracing her uniqueness, in Wicked.

Mom of: Benjamin Retallack, preschooler

What’s the best thing about combining parenthood with working on Broadway?
Actually being able to do both, but only because I have the most amazing, supportive husband, Guy. It’s also lovely that Ben is at the age now where he loves coming into Mum’s work and discovering backstage. The trap doors and the dragon are his favorite. He adores coming in between shows and trying to paint himself green too!

What’s the biggest challenge?
As it’s a full-on eight shows a week, plus sometimes extra rehearsals and PR events, family time together is usually last on the list. Ben often asks, “Are you going to work tonight?” which breaks my heart as my answer is always yes.

Can you share a favorite backstage memory involving your son?
The first time Ben came into my dressing room, he made a beeline for the green paint and did his best to look like Mama. He covered his face and hands with the green paint and thought it was hysterical — which it was!

What’s the best advice about motherhood you ever got?
My mum was the wisest woman I knew. She was a wonderful mother to me and my siblings, and knew Ben for only the first three months of his life. Her saying was, “Give your children wings to fly and roots so they will always know where home is.”

Why is Wicked a great show for Broadway fans to take their mothers to see?
It’s a beautiful, universal story about friendship between women. It shows how girls, women, and mothers relate to each other. It’s about respect for things and situations that may occur in our lives that are unexpected. It’s about believing in the idea that you can do and be whatever you wish for. And it was the first Broadway show I took my mother to see, and by far the best!

Rachel York

RYBroadway role: Jackie, a lovely lounge singer on an ill-fated riverboat casino, in Disaster!

Mom of: Olivia Jolie, age 5

What’s the best thing about combining parenthood with working on Broadway?
My daughter has grown up backstage with “show people” and watched me perform her entire life, so she is very comfortable with dynamic, musical people. As a result, she is also dynamic, musical, imaginative, proactive, considerate, and very generous of spirit. She knows the proper etiquette while watching a show because she is an experienced theatregoer. On the other hand, I believe parenthood made me a better actress. There is a grounding that occurs when one becomes a mother. I don’t have time to get nervous or waste energy thinking about my own ego. I feel like my love for Olivia could move mountains.

What’s the biggest challenge?
Not enough time to do everything I need to do each day. I have to make sure I don’t overextend myself so I have the energy to do my job, but I also want to be there for my daughter. Olivia will sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me she misses me. Luckily, our schedule allows me to tuck her into bed two nights a week. I wish I could tuck her in every night, but I also have to support her, so what can you do? I’m glad she’s a happy and loving kid. We are doing something right!
Can you share a favorite backstage memory involving your daughter?

One of my favorite memories took place on my daughter’s 2nd birthday, when I was performing in the national tour of Anything Goes in Las Vegas. Olivia walked on stage at the end of the show in her little sailor dress, and the audience and cast sang “Happy Birthday” to her! She also used to dance and sing with the cast backstage. She still loves to dance and sing. She likes to wear my stage makeup too. Uh-oh, there’s a theme here.

What’s the best advice about motherhood you ever got?
My mother was wonderful, so I try to follow her example. But as far as advice, my best friend, Joanie Coyote, was very inspiring when I became a new mom. As a single mother, Joanie raised a lovely and bright young lady who is now in college. Her daughter, Elle, was never a “difficult” teenager, and Joanie and Elle are incredibly close and trusting. Joanie told me it was because she consciously never spoke to Elle as if she was a baby. While there were always firm rules and boundaries, she talked to Elle with honesty, respect, and lots of love, and tried to create an environment that was safe for Elle to approach her with questions or concerns without judgment.

Why is Disaster! a great show for Broadway fans to take their mothers to see?
Audiences at Disaster! have a blast from start to finish. Most mothers probably lived some portion of their lives in the ’70s or have some relationship to the great, happy music of the ’70s. The show was written out of love and friendship and is performed with love by every cast member. We’ve all done tons of musicals, and we are so proud and happy to be performing together in a fantastic show that’s fun for the whole family. It’s clean, effective humor. People will take home fond memories of laughing hysterically together. And laughter is, indeed, the best medicine for all moms!

Top photo: Andréa Burns in On Your Feet! (credit: Matthew Murphy), Carolee Carmello in Tuck Everlasting (credit: Joan Marcus), Jessica Hecht in Fiddler on the Roof (credit: Joan Marcus), Rachel Tucker in Wicked (credit: Joan Marcus), Rachel York in Disaster! (credit: Jeremy Daniel).