How Often Have Parents and Children Appeared in the Same Broadway Show?

Jennifer Ashley Tepper Is answering your questions with Broadway Deep Dive!

By: Nov. 12, 2023
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How Often Have Parents and Children Appeared in the Same Broadway Show?

Do you have a burning Broadway question? Dying to know more about an obscure Broadway fact? Broadway historian and self-proclaimed theatre nerd Jennifer Ashley Tepper is here to help with her new series, Broadway Deep Dive. Every month, BroadwayWorld will be accepting questions from theatre fans like you. If you're lucky, your question might be selected as the topic of her next column!

Submit your Broadway question in the comments here!

This time, the reader question was: Have parents and children appeared in the same Broadway show together, before Danny DeVito and Lucy DeVito in I Need That?

At Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre, currently Danny DeVito and his daughter Lucy DeVito are starring in the new play I Need That. Written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, I Need That takes on the topic of hoarding as it relates to one man, Sam, and his daughter, Amelia. Why do we keep the stuff we have, and how is it hurting us to hang onto it? The play is a three-hander that also includes a performance from Ray Anthony Thomas as Foster, Sam’s closest friend.

The elder DeVito, a longtime beloved screen star, made his Broadway debut in 2017 at the same theater, in The Price. In I Need That, he enraptures the audience with his heartfelt portrayal of a man that outsiders might see as cantankerous, but who is really just a lonely child at heart. Teaming up with his real-life daughter to play father and daughter on stage adds a moving and amusing sense of occasion to the proceedings. As Amelia, Lucy DeVito makes her Broadway debut, and as she prevails upon her father to clean up his house and his life, you are swept up by the familial chemistry between the two.

It’s always a special occurrence when a parent and child appear together in a Broadway show.

In 2013, Laurie Metcalf and her daughter Zoe Perry appeared on Broadway together in The Other Place. Metcalf’s portrayal of a neurologist coping with multiple parts of her life falling apart earned her her second Tony Award nomination. (Since this time, she has racked up two Tony Award wins and two additional nominations.) Similar to the scenario in I Need That, Metcalf’s daughter, Perry, made her Broadway debut playing Metcalf’s character’s daughter on stage. Metcalf and Perry also forged a unique on-screen connection when Perry portrayed the younger version of the role her mother originated 2007’s The Big Bang Theory, this time in Young Sheldon, the 2017 prequel series.

I Need That

In the musical world, mother and son Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy starred together in the Broadway revival of 42nd Street, debuting as Dorothy Brock and Julian Marsh in 2004 at what was then the Ford Center of the Performing Arts and is now the Lyric Theatre. Interestingly, in all three examples noted so far, the off-stage parent (Rhea Perlman, Jeff Perry, Jack Cassidy) is/was a stage performer as well. Shirley Jones, known for her enchanting performances in the screen adaptations of Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The Music Man, gave her final Broadway performance to date as 42nd Street’s aging diva, as Cassidy, with four previous Broadway performances in lead roles under his belt, sang out “Lullaby of Broadway” as director, Marsh.

In 1973, mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher shared the stage in the musical Irene. The revival of the popular 1919 musical, which opened Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre, starred the much-admired Reynolds in the title role. The then-16-year-old Fisher appeared in the ensemble of the show. Both mother and daughter made their Broadway debuts in Irene. A decade later on Broadway, Reynolds went into the musical Woman of the Year as a replacement for the leading role at the same time as Fisher was starring as a replacement for the leading role in Agnes of God.

Another example of an iconic star of screen and stage lighting up Broadway with children in tow is Judy Garland: At Home at the Palace. Judy Garland made four Broadway appearances; three were at the Palace Theatre and one was at the Metropolitan Opera House. Before the Palace was transformed into a fully legit Broadway house in 1966, with Sweet Charity, it spent the previous decades largely as a movie palace, with a few special concert engagements (following its vaudeville beginnings). As such, Garland made history with her 1951 show, Judy Garland at the Palace “Two-a-Day”, which ran for 19 weeks to enraptured crowds and was called “one of the greatest personal triumphs in show business history”. Garland made a return appearance in 1956 with another self-titled Palace show. In 1959, she took to the Metropolitan Opera House for her third Broadway show. The Metropolitan Opera House in question was built in 1883 at the corner of Broadway and 39th Street, to compete with the well-established Academy of Music. (For more on this, tune in to this season of The Gilded Age!) It was demolished in 1966 when the Metropolitan Opera moved to the brand-new complex at Lincoln Center, but in its time on Broadway and 39th, it hosted a handful of Broadway contracts, including Garland’s. Garland returned once again to the Palace for her fourth and final production. This time, two of her children, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft, were part of the performance. The three regaled audiences with several medleys as a family, including a performance of “Together Wherever We Go” from Gypsy.

Blues Hall of Famer Josh White was a prolific, acclaimed recording artist in multiple genres from the 1930s through the 1960s. He was a trailblazing artist who was also a civil rights activist. Among his many accomplishments, White was the first Black artist to give a command performance at the White House. In 1940, White made his Broadway debut in John Henry, a musical where he played the narrator, which also starred Paul Robeson. The production was unfortunately short-lived. It was the first of four Broadway credits for White, the last being How Long Till Summer in 1949, which also marked his son Josh White Jr.’s Broadway debut. In How Long Till Summer, the two played father and son, each coping with racism in different scenarios. White Jr. went on to appear in several other Broadway shows, and in 1983, he starred as his father in a musical about his father’s life which premiered at the Michigan Public Theatre.

Who are your favorite parent-child duos who have appeared on Broadway together in the same production?