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BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!

It's one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding jobs. With long hours and little sleep, you're expected to consistently portray a myriad of contrasting roles at the drop of the hat, sometimes with no prior experience or preparation - full out, no marking. All with a contract that offers no out, no sick leave, no vacation time, and no pay. Would you be down for the role?

In this exclusive BWW feature, we're talking all about the actresses who were! The Moms of Broadway. How do they juggle sleep schedules and rehearsal schedules, or go from the bottles of champagne on opening night to bottles of milk at home? Read on to find out!


This month BroadwayWorld sat down with cast members and fellow mothers of the hit Broadway musical Come From Away Pearl Sun, Sharon Wheatley, Julie Reiber, and Happy McPartlin to chat motherhood in theatre industry.

Ranging in age from two to twenty-one, the children of Come From Away have spent a majority, if not the entirety, of their life growing up inside of different theaters on Broadway and around the country; evident in the exuberant joy that can be found as Max, Pearl Sun's two-year-old son, makes a game of running up and down the aisles of the Schoenfeld Theatre.

Growing up with parents on Broadway can offer some truly magical experiences for any child. Whether you, like Sharon Wheatley's eldest daughter Charlotte (now 21 and in college to become a theatrical director), spent your early years in the audience of Cats attempting to be held by your Mom as she crept through the audience... "I obviously had to stay in character, so would nuzzle her like a cat instead". Or, like Sharon's 11-year-old daughter Beatrix, grew up with 'some of the best lullabies in town', with Sharon always trying to support up-and-coming performers with babysitting opportunities.

Or perhaps, like Happy McPartlin's three-year-old son Bricker, you don't quite know where you are yet, you can still make memories and friends! "His first best friend is one of the other kids from our show!". And, most importantly, in a sentiment repeated by all of the mothers, you can find your second home and family... "It's like having another family that cares about you".

Sometimes, the kids are even growing up in the industry before they're born. Pearl spoke of her son's affinity for musical theatre so early on, attributing it to being 'fortunate to continue working until beyond my due date doing labs and workshops'. She laughed as she discussed her work with the Frozen lab while six months pregnant, saying 'whenever we were in rehearsal and the very famous song that shall not be named would come on, he would just start pushing and moving around in my belly. It was just so fun'.

Fortunate being a keyword - with the mothers of Come From Away, and mothers within the industry, recognizing the shift on Broadway that previously saw women wishing to start a family often choose between having children or having a career.

Within that industrial shift, however, also lies the women who are advocating for the small but mighty changes. As Julie Reiber describes, "I think my generation of Broadway Moms are speaking up and raising awareness of and access for what Moms need... things like a breast-feeding space or childcare for auditions".

Happy also added that, like many others, she feels that there is "a home for me as a parent in the community now". She continues, "So many moms are so supportive of each other. It's wonderful and refreshing in a business where we often feel on our own".

Support and a sense of community are important as, just as any parent would attest, raising a child or children isn't easy. One of the most challenging aspects that each of the mothers mentioned was scheduling. Julie explained that 'children are sometimes up super early, and sometimes don't sleep through the night, and I'm at the theatre until late. As they get older, you add in the school schedule, and an after-school schedule, and everything that goes along with that".

Unlike those who work a more traditional 9-5 job, these mothers often aren't afforded the opportunity to tuck their children into bed each night; a moment that Happy savors every Sunday and Monday... 'I miss those sweet cuddly times when he [Bricker] is just listening to stories and getting sleepy. It's such a precious time and they don't stay little forever'.

However being a performer with children, and needing to be 'fully alert and energized with maybe half the amount of sleep that your colleagues who don't have children' as Pearl describes it, can slowly become less challenging as your children get older.

Sharon and her daughters speak fondly of the Broadway schedule... "A lot of people say that Broadway is a really unreliable job, but I think it's opposite," Charlotte says, with Beatrix adding, "Yeah, like we know what time she has to leave and what time Mom will be home. It's not like a regular job where you can just show up to work late". When Sharon asked her daughters if they feel as if they had lost any time with her growing up, they're both quick to answer, "No, I think we had more".

The flexibility to be with their children, especially when they're younger, throughout the day is a rewarding aspect that is not lost on these mothers. Pearl acknowledges that despite having "a full-time job being a performer on Broadway, I get to spend most of my days with my child which I think that most working mothers in any other industry don't have that gift or that ability".

Similarly, Julie adds that "being able to maintain a family life and be able to do eight shows a week on Broadway a dream, right?!" As she speaks, her daughters, six-year-old Tuney and four-year-old Phoebe, started singing Welcome To The Rock behind her. "And I mean these guys are pure joy and they're just such a reminder of simplifying the anxiety or the stress that I feel to just bring me back to the present moment".

Happy also spoke of her ability to be a source of inspiration for her son, not taking it for granted that she is "able to show my son how perseverance and hard work can be rewarded is a huge gift... Not everyone gets that opportunity to show their kids the reality of their dreams coming true".

When asking the women what their advice would be to new or expecting parents, there was a resounding, simple answer: to be easy on yourself, to not be afraid to ask for help, and to find and fall back on your tribe.

But no trip to Gander would be complete without the beautiful music the accompanies it. So, we challenged the Mothers of Come From Away to give Welcome To The Rock a motherhood makeover with Welcome To Parenthood. Here's what they came up with:

JULIE REIBER:

Welcome to Parenthood

Bye bye sleep.

But that sweet little baby

Will be worth every peep.

The love is beyond

Every measure known.

Your heart explodes

A new world is sewn.

This new world is not your own...

Their always in your mind...

What is best for them?

And how can you find...

The best way to support?

The best way to be?

Just remember that love...

lots of love...

Is the only needed decree.

PEARL SUN:

Welcome parenting

As you juggle the day

Oh, it is quite rewarding

Though you'd like to find a way

To manage all the things you do

And still have time to play

You might lose all your sanity

But still we say hooray!

SHARON WHEATLEY:

Welcome Moms-To-Be who are on the Broadway!

You'll prob'ly understand about a half of what I say.

The shows are late, the hours aren't great, and you'll be sleep deprived,

But it is worth it, I promise you'll survive:

Welcome Broadway Moms!

(You're a Mama now, we are all Mamas now, You're a Mama now, you get a special bow!)

HAPPY MCPARTLIN:

Welcome to parenthood, so you think you've got it down,

Don't worry in a second it will completely turn around,
They say that by the time they're 4 they'll sleep right thru the night,

Is that really possible? If so, please turn out the lights...

Welcome to my nap!

You can catch Pearl Sun, Sharon Wheatle, Julie Reiber, and Happy McPartlin in Come From Away eight times a week at the Schoenfeld Theatre, where it recently entered its second year. For more information, or to purchase tickets, head to ComeFromAway.com.

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Sharon Wheatley with Beatrix and Charlotte

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Sharon Wheatley with Beatrix and Charlotte

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Happy McPartlin with Bricker

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Happy McPartlin with Bricker

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Pearl Sun with Max

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Pearl Sun with Max

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Julie Reiber with Phoebe and Tuney

BWW Exclusive: Welcome To Parenthood! Meet The Mothers of Come From Away!
Julie Reiber with Phoebe and Tuney



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