Act 1 (Jack & Louisa)

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9781101995228: Act 1 (Jack & Louisa)

A show-stopping series about life in the spotlight from Broadway actors and internet sensations Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead
 
Twelve-year-old Jack Goodrich was a Broadway star, with two shows under his belt and a third in rehearsals. But when his voice suddenly changes, Jack and his parents leave the spotlight and move far from New York City to Shaker Heights, Ohio. While Jack hopes to leave his Broadway past behind, his new neighbor refuses to let him off the hook. Louisa is a self-proclaimed "musical theater nerd" and can hardly believe when an actor moves to town. What's more, the local theater has announced auditions for her favorite show, Into the Woods. As the audition date looms nearer, the two are faced with difficult choices. Should Jack risk humiliation and return to the stage? Will Louisa have confidence to go it alone? And can friendship survive all those complicated octave leaps?

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About the Author:

Andrew Keenan-Bolger is a musical theater actor and singer originally from Detroit. He has appeared on Broadway in Tuck EverlastingNewsies, Mary Poppins, and Seussical. Andrew and Kate Wetherhead created the popular web series, "Submissions Only," which was hailed as one of Entertainment Weekly's "Top 10 Things We Love."

Kate Wetherhead originated the role of Chutney in  Legally Blonde: The Musical and is a fixture on the New York stage. She has performed extensively Off-Broadway and regionally, and was in the Broadway production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: Jack
 
 
“Please, no show tunes right now,” I moaned from the cave of boxes in the backseat.
 
“Not even Into the Woods?” my mom said sweetly, plugging her iPod into the blue stereo cable. “Stephen Sondheim always puts you in a better mood.”
 
“No, you can just listen to NPR or something,” I grumbled.
 
My mother twisted around to get a better look at me from the passenger seat. She placed a cool hand on the side of my face, then brushed a strand of hair off my forehead. I pulled away from her touch, burying my face deeper into the cardboard den.
 
“Suit yourself,” she said, sitting back, unplugging her iPod, and spinning the radio dial.
 
The car stereo hiccuped fragments of country music and static as I sat stewing in the backseat. Honestly, I would have loved to listen to Into the Woods, and my mom was totally right: All it took was a few harmonies and clever rhymes from the opening number, and a grin would instantly curl up on my face. I’d discovered the musical a few years ago on a trip to the New York Public Library. My dad, a firm defender of physical books and music, was browsing the old CD section when my nine-year-old eyes fell upon a snazzy album cover—a forest of trees, the largest of which formed into a wolf’s head growling down at a pack of frightened cartoon figures. Taking it for some fairy-tale recording, my dad checked it out, not realizing he was unlocking a lifelong obsession with musical theater for me. I remember listening to the finale, a tear-jerking “Children Will Listen,” and deciding that Into the Woods was the closest thing I’d come to magic. 
 
Since that day, I’d listened to hundreds of cast recordings, and while shows like Next to Normal, Cabaret, and Gypsy got plenty of playtime, Into the Woods would always be my most treasured. Its composer, musical-theater superhero Stephen Sondheim, would become my favorite writer, and my dream role would become the character Jack, which, as luck would have it, happened to be my name.
 
I tried stretching my stiff legs underneath the jars of flaxseed and wheat germ my mom insisted on bringing with us. “Who knows if our new town will have a health-food store?” I rested my sneakered feet on an overstuffed pillow of chia seeds as a man’s nasally voice filled the car.
 
“Today on our program ‘Taking the Leap’: stories of people who took big risks and gained unexpected riches.”
 
I yawned. Listening to the cast recording would certainly have put me in a better mood, but the truth was, I just didn’t feel like being happy right now. If I’d learned anything from Into the Woods, it’s that when your fairy-tale wishes came true, Act 2 would come along and spoil everything. I was supposed to be starting the seventh grade at the Professional Performing Arts School, an awesome place that packs its day not only with math and science, but also with dance and acting classes. I was supposed to spend my days off in New York City, picnicking in Central Park and eating ice cream on the Hudson River. I was also supposed to become the thing in life I’d always dreamed of being: the star of an original Broadway cast. A green road sign swiped by my window proclaiming “Cleveland: 302 Miles”—further proof that none of these things was going to happen.
 
I wasn’t your typical twelve-year-old. While most kids my age spent their evenings studying plant cells and watching bad reality shows, I spent my nights memorizing lines and performing on Broadway. I’d been in two and a half Broadway shows: Mary Poppins, A Christmas Story, and the half was complicated and the main reason I was stuck in a backseat, wedged between boxes of dishes and my dad’s National Geographic collection.
 
“How long until the next rest stop?” I asked. “I’m getting hungry.”
 
“There’s one in Harrisburg, but unless you want Starbucks for lunch, it looks like we should hold out till Altoona,” my dad said. “Think you can wait a couple hours?”
 
Al-tuna, I mouthed. My stomach rumbled with the thought of avocado sushi rolls and salty vegetable dumplings. “I can wait.”
 
“You know, Nana was telling me last week that they just opened a Dave and Buster’s not too far from the new house,” my mom said, turning down the radio volume. “Shaker Heights has a lot of the same places as New York.”
 
“Do they have a Staten Island Ferry?” I mumbled sarcastically.
 
“What was that?” she asked.
 
“Nothing,” I said, leaning my head on a Sharpie-marked box. “Wake me when we get to Al-Tuna.”
 
 
***
 
 
Closing my eyes, I tried to replay the final memories of my last day in New York—the morning sun creeping up the street like a summer fire-hydrant puddle, the screeching of metal as my dad rolled the door to the U-Haul shut, my mom’s good-byes to Marcel, the guy who worked at the corner store, her arms loaded with coffee cups and bagel sandwiches. Everything had looked different. The sidewalk, usually crowded with strollers and dog walkers, was as empty as our living room. The Upper West Side soundtrack of car horns and multi-language cell-phone chatter had been replaced with an eerie early-morning silence.
 
I caught my reflection in the grease-smeared window of our minivan. My favorite shirt, once baggy enough to tuck my knees under at the breakfast table, now seemed to be hugging my shoulders a little too tightly. They were right. I was changing.
 
Change was something most twelve-year-olds couldn’t wait for. When will my voice sound as deep as my older cousin’s? When am I gonna be tall enough to ride Kingda Ka at Six Flags? When can I get my first tattoo? Okay, not so much that last one. But when you’re a kid working on Broadway, change meant a final curtain call, a return to everyday kid life.
 
That spring I had been cast as the lead in The Big Apple, a new Broadway show about a kid and his mother who go from singing on subway platforms to headlining on the Great White Way. On the first day of rehearsal, I knew something was wrong. The notes that had been so easy to pop out in the audition only two months ago felt strained. I chalked it up to nerves, but even when I got home that night and practiced, it felt like the high notes were getting stuck in my throat. The next day I was in a full state of emergency. What if I cracked on my high note? What if my understudy was better than me? When was the creative team going to find out my secret: Their star was growing up?
 
“Ugh, sorry. I’m just getting over a cold,” I remember saying to our music director.
 
“No sweat, Jack. We can work on it some more tomorrow.”
 
 
***
 
 
My dad’s voice startled me awake. “Wake up, Jack Sprat. We’re in Altoona.”
 
The food selection at the rest stop was hardly an improvement over Harrisburg’s. I forced down a slice of pizza topped with mushrooms and a puddle of neon grease. After picking up some magazines at the gift shop, we loaded back into our U-Haul-hitched minivan. Mom’s talk radio was replaced by a loud-voiced conversation with my dad, obviously meant to be overheard by me.
 
“I just can’t believe the good timing. A position opening up in the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, just minutes away from your mom’s house.”
 
“The schools in Shaker Heights are supposed to be some of the best in the nation.”
 
“It’s going to be good for Jack to finally have a backyard to play in.”
 
I stayed silent for the rest of the trip, not even piping up to ask how many kids in Cleveland have Central Park down the street from their house. After a seemingly endless stretch of flat green land, I saw a sign reading “Exit 151: Cleveland.”
 
I began to make out buildings in the hazy distance. As we drove up a ramp, the skyline came into view. Like New York, the city overlooked a body of water, but with only a handful of skyscrapers, it looked more like a Christmas tree lot than the vast Manhattan forest of steel.
 
“Jack, you see that tall building with the golden spire?” my dad said, gesturing toward my mom’s window. I remained silent. “Yeah, well that’s Terminal Tower. It was built in the 1920s and was once the fourth-tallest building in the world. At night it’s lit with yellow lights and glows just like the Empire State Building.”
 
My dad was a nut about history and geography. I was usually amused by his monologues on long road trips, his rambling on about how such-and-such architect went blind late in life or how so-and-so used to name his bridges after childhood pets, but today his perky energy felt more like a punishment. Back in New York he worked for the Metropolitan Transit Authority. They were the people who looked after the city’s subways, buses, and trains. Consequently, the Goodrich family never took cabs. Ever. Even last June when my family got tickets to the Tony Awards, my dad insisted that we ride the subway, tuxes and all. “Nothing gets you where you want to go faster than a New York City subway,” he always declared. Both Mom and I knew how badly Dad wanted to be the head of his department, so this spring when he was passed over in favor of someone a lot younger, the whole family felt the blow. This news became further complicated when a call arrived announcing that the city of Cleveland was overhauling their transit system and was looking for someone to run it. My dad began dreaming aloud at the dinner table, pondering how great it would be to run his own department and return to the town he grew up in, but with his son about to star in a new Broadway show, his dream stayed a dream.
 
“Do you see that big glass pyramid?” my mom chimed in. “That’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Your dad took me there the first time we went home for Thanksgiving at Nana’s. Remember that picture in front of Elvis’s jumpsuit?”
 
My dad smiled, placing a hand on my mom’s knee.
 
“How long until we get to the house?” I asked.
 
“We’re approximately nine miles from the house,” my dad answered. “Try counting down from”—he tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, pretending to use an invisible calculator—“one thousand two hundred and fifty.”
 
I made sure he was watching in the rearview mirror as I rolled my eyes, all the while secretly counting down in my head, One thousand two hundred forty-nine, one thousand two hundred forty-eight . . .
 
Around nine hundred fifty-something I gave up, noticing an abrupt change in scenery. Hitting exit 160, we pulled off the expressway and onto a tree-lined street. It was crazy how quickly the factories and office buildings gave way to identical-looking tan-brick houses and frozen-yogurt stores.
 
“It should be up here on the right,” my dad said, placing a map against the steering wheel.
 
“Jack, look at it! It’s our new subdivision!” my mom squealed, practically levitating from her seat.
 
I looked up at a dazzling sign with curlicue gold writing: “Sussex Meadows: Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen.” We began driving down a winding row of brown and beige houses, each one bearing the exact same lawn, the same window shutters, the same Mercedes SUV parked in the driveway, and an American flag hanging over every front doorway. My dad pulled up in front of an impressive but unmemorable house and began to back the U-Haul trailer up the spotless driveway. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach as I realized they were right—this was like nothing I’d ever seen.
 

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