A family affair

For its hol­i­day show, the Wal­nut Street Theatre is present­ing the award-win­ning mu­sic­al The Mu­sic Man. Be­cause the story in­volves a con man prom­ising to teach chil­dren how to play in a march­ing band, the cast  in­cludes 30 loc­al young­sters. 

Four of them are from one North­east Phil­adelphia fam­ily, the Mc­Quoids of East Tor­res­dale.

Hope, the old­est, is 12. Her sis­ter Molly is 11, broth­er Will is 9  and the young­est per­former, Lucy, is just 6. 

“My friends ask, ‘How did they all be­come so tal­en­ted?’” said their moth­er D’arcy Mc­Quoid, who takes no cred­it for it.

“I sang in a choir but I don’t have one-tenth of the tal­ent of these kids,” she said. 

Like all the oth­ers in the chil­dren’s en­semble, the Mc­Quoids had to au­di­tion. More than 200 young­sters showed up for the open au­di­tion. Only 30 were chosen — in­clud­ing all four Mc­Quoid kids.

On­stage, they sing and dance with the oth­ers in the chil­dren’s  en­semble. One of their big scenes comes in the middle of Act 1 when they sing the show-stop­ping Sev­enty-Six Trom­bones.

“Then in the middle of singing it, we have a big dance num­ber,” said Hope. “It’s really fun.”

They march, of course, and they also do pan­to­mime to show they’re play­ing in­stru­ments — not just trom­bones but drums and pic­colo, too.

“The singing’s not that hard,” said Hope. “But our faces have to show that we’re ex­cited and happy. It’s kind of hard to keep your face smil­ing while you’re singing and dan­cing.”

To pre­pare for their roles, the mem­bers of the chil­dren’s en­semble re­hearsed for three weeks to­geth­er with the adult cast. 

“They were very wel­com­ing to us,” said Hope. “They made sure we knew what we were do­ing. And they came over to talk to us when we wer­en’t act­ing out our parts.” 

Dir­ect­or Marc Robin guided the kids dur­ing the re­hears­als.

“He was very nice,” said Hope. “If we did something wrong, he wasn’t mean. He just made sure we’d do it right the next time.”

Hope already has plenty of stage ex­per­i­ence, mostly in com­munity theat­er. Her first per­form­ance came when she was just 5 and had a role in the Vogue Play­ers pro­duc­tion of Alad­din.

She’s done oth­er plays with Vogue and also with Si­enna Play­ers — both are com­munity theat­ers in North­east Philly. 

This ver­sat­ile young per­former is also a bal­let dan­cer who takes les­sons and dances with En Pointe. This sea­son, she had the star­ring  child’s role in En Pointe’s  ro­duc­tion of The Nutcrack­er, dan­cing in two shows on Sunday, Dec. 9 (For­tu­nately, she had no Mu­sic Man per­form­ance that day.) 

Her sis­ter and broth­er, Molly and Will, are theat­er vet­er­ans who have per­formed in shows with Vogue Play­ers and Si­enna. 

“Molly is the most mu­sic­al one,” said her moth­er. “She’s got an Eth­el Mer­man voice — very power­ful.”

That’s why she’s already sung in mu­sic­als at the Bris­tol River­side Theat­er and  the Broad­way Theat­er in Pit­man, N.J., as well as Si­enna and Vogue Play­ers. 

All three Mc­Quoids were in a Si­enna pro­duc­tion of The Mu­sic Man in 2009. 

“It’s our fa­vor­ite show,” said Hope. “It’s lively, the mu­sic is fun, and it’s a show for every­one in the fam­ily.” 

Will Mc­Quoid agreed. This is the 9-year-old’s second show on the Wal­nut Theatre’s Main Stage. He was also in the en­semble of Oliv­er in 2010. Be­sides his theat­er cred­its, he’s also a mem­ber of the Phil­adelphia Boys Choir.

Six-year-old Lucy is the only Mc­Quoid who has nev­er been on the stage, un­til now. With The Mu­sic Man, it’s her turn to make her theat­er de­but.

It’s also the first time that all four Mc­Quoid kids have een in the same show.

“It’s really cool that we’re all in this to­geth­er,” said Will. 

His par­ents agree.

“See­ing all of them in one show is thrill­ing,” said D’arcy Mc­Quoid. “I was amazed that all four of them were cast. I don’t know if it will ever hap­pen again.”

She and her hus­band Art did much to en­cour­age their chil­dren’s mu­sic­al and the­at­ric­al in­terests. Hope was only 2 when she star­ted listen­ing to Dis­ney mu­sic.

“I bought DVDs of mu­sic­als and a toy pi­ano,” said D’arcy Mc­Quoid. “She loved it. She’d go to sleep every night listen­ing to mu­sic that she chose” 

Young­er sis­ter Molly be­came in­volved be­cause of Hope’s in­terest. When she first saw her sis­ter per­form, she asked, ‘When can I be in a show?’”

The older sis­ters also took pi­ano les­sons when they were just 4 years old.

“And we’d take them to plays, buy them DVDs,” said their moth­er. “We saw their in­terest and en­cour­aged it.”

As for Will, “he was in­ter­ested be­cause they were,” said his moth­er. “His in­terest was mainly in singing.”

Now, with the Wal­nut pro­duc­tion, young Lucy joins her sib­lings on the stage. She’s not only the young­est in her fam­ily, she’s also the young­est of all 30 kids in the chil­dren’s en­semble.

For all the Mc­Quoids, The Mu­sic Man has meant a hec­tic sched­ule. The show opened for pre­views on Nov. 6 and con­tin­ues through Jan. 6. The Mc­Quoids are on the “week­day team” of the chil­dren’s en­semble, per­form­ing Tues­day through Fri­day even­ings. On those nights, they don’t get home un­til al­most mid­night.

Their par­ents do chauf­feur ser­vice, al­tern­at­ing the drives to and from the Cen­ter City theat­er.

“We spend a lot of time in the car,” D’arcy Mc­Quoid said cheer­fully.

As for the young per­formers, they love be­ing on­stage. Now there’s the ex­tra pleas­ure of shar­ing the same show — and even the same scenes — to­geth­er.

“They’re all very ex­cited for each oth­er,” said their moth­er. “It’s a won­der­ful ex­per­i­ence for all four of them, and it’s brought them much closer.” ••

“The Mu­sic Man” con­tin­ues at the Wal­nut Street Theatre, 825 Wal­nut St., through Jan. 6. For tick­ets, call 215-574-3550, go to the Web site www.wal­nut­streettheatre.org or call Tick­et­mas­ter.

You can reach at rrovner@aol.com.

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