Teens Emma Howard (Violet) and Jaidyn Young (Annie) grew up in Southern California but didn’t meet until the final callbacks for Annie on Broadway as pre-teens. Last month they performed together for the first time in both California and New York. We talked to them about their beginnings in the arts, their lives as California girls, and how their cabaret Together At Last came to be!
1) How did you two start performing?
Emma: When I was around 4 years old, a family moved in across the street. The mother of the family ran a small children’s theater group and she invited my mother to have my siblings and I participate in their next show, The Wizard of Oz. I was cast in the role of a munchkin, and that was the start of my acting career. It was in that group that I first met Derek Klena who has also gone on to perform on Broadway in Wicked and Bridges of Madison County and Off-Broadway in Carrie and Dogfight.
Jaidyn: I pretty much was ALWAYS around music and performing. When I was in my mom’s belly she was managing a all girl singing group, so she says I heard music 24 hours a day before I was even born. And my older sister was involved in a local performing group so I was always hanging around and watching the rehearsals and shows. When I was 2 I started dancing and singing classes and when I was 6 I was in my first show, HONK! I was one of the little ducklings. Then when I was 7 I got my first professional gig, a soloist in the Glory of Christmas and we performed every night in front of 2700 people during the holidays. What I remember most is that every night I’d get to pet and play with the camels and the baby donkey. After that I was hooked!
2) What came first – acting, singing, or dancing?
E: I started taking dancing lessons around the age of 3. My father claims that I could sing the entire ‘Elmo’ song before I was able to speak in complete sentences. So I guess you’d have to say I started singing first.
J: The singing classes started really early because my mom was a singing teacher, I was always singing! Then the dancing, I begged the owner of the dance studio to let me start before I was 3 (that was the starting age for the studio), he finally caved and let me start dance classes when I was 2 and a half. And the acting started around 6 when I started doing local theater.
3) When did you know you wanted to pursue a professional career in performing?
E: When I was about 9, I was cast as ‘Oliver’ in a production of Oliver for a small theater group in North Hollywood. It was my first lead role. I had so much fun I thought I’d love to do it again and I asked my Mom where the best place to do musical theater was. That was the first time I heard about ‘Broadway’ in New York City. So my goal then was to get to Broadway. Luckily, my mom is very good at networking and finding out what was out there. A year or two later I was accepted into a summer program with Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City. That led to my signing with the Carson-Adler Talent Agency in New York City, which later led to auditions for Annie and later Matilda.
J: At first it was just on a whim that I started auditioning for professional shows, really just to have the experience. Then I got my first job, Glory of Christmas and right after that I got another at a Dinner Theater in Annie. I was Kate and I was only 9 years old. I feel in love with performing and wanted to audition for everything after that. After I had played the part of Annie 3 times I found out about the Annie auditions for the Broadway Revival. Once I started progressing thru the callback process, I needed to get an agent. So that’s what I did and its just been one thing after the other since then.
4) How did the idea for this cabaret come about?
E: Jaidyn and I had wanted to perform together for a while, so when our mothers came up with the idea of a two-girl show we were totally onboard.
J: Ya, Emma and I had met during the Annie auditions in NYC. We stayed friendly throughout that year that we both lived in New York. But when we both moved back home to Los Angeles, we were both in a Cabaret and started talking about how we’d like to be able to sing more than just one song. Then our moms said lets put on our own show and it kinda just got created from our wanting to sing together and sing a lot of songs.
5) How are you deciding what to perform? Is there a certain theme you’re going for or something else?
E: The name of the show is Together At Last, which, of course, comes from one of the songs in ‘Annie’ and we felt it best described how the two of us are finally able to perform together, because while we both ended up on Broadway at the same time, we were in separate shows. We often talked about how cool it would be to be cast-mates, so this is our opportunity to finally do it. Our show explores how we met, what it was like at the final Annie auditions, our Broadway openings and life as a ‘Broadway Kid’, what it’s like now being a ‘Broadway Kid’ in Hollywood and our dreams for the future.
J: Before the show was created, we met many times to discuss how we met and how our time on Broadway was so cool. As we talked thru these sessions the show just kind of created itself. We knew what songs we’d like to sing so we just worked the stories around those songs.
6) What is your go-to audition song?
E: It’s changed over the years and depends on the audition. Right now it’s ‘One Perfect Moment’ from Bring It On. I also like to sing ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ from Funny Girl if they’re looking for more belting. I also love the music from “Carrie.”
J: My book of songs has changed thru the years. When I was younger I was always being seen as the “Annie Belter” type. So for a very long time I had this one go to song that was really obscure and no one really had hear about it, but it was a really good song to show off my belt. But since I have gotten back home and my voice has matured, I like to change it up for every audition and I don’t really like to use the same songs over again. It keeps it exciting and I don’t get bored. But I don’t really recommend that. I think its best if you have your favorite audition songs and always use the few that make you sound best.
7) Take us through a day in each of your lives.
E: Weekdays start with school. I attend Los Angeles County High School for the Arts where I am a Dance/Musical Theater major. The school is about 35 miles from my home, so I have to leave by 6:30 in the morning to get there by 8AM. We have our academic classes in the morning, then after lunch we have our arts curriculum for 2 ½ hours. School ends at 4 PM. Before I get home, I usually take a few more dance classes (jazz, ballet, lyrical, contemporary and hip-hop) at my favorite dance studio where I am in the studio’s company. Once I’m home it’s a quick dinner and time for homework.
My weekends are a little less crazy, but still filled with different lessons (acting and vocal) or rehearsals for different projects I might be involved in.
J: Well, I have chosen to go to a public High School. I really enjoy my everyday life. I usually get up around 7:00 and get dropped off for school around 8:00. Then its school all day until 2, from there I go to Cheer Practice most days or a game that I have to cheer at. Some nights I have Tumbling Class to learn new skills. And I try to have a voice lesson on the weekends. Some days I have an audition in LA and we try to swing by the Acting Coach before so that I can really get the lines down. When I have the time I try to take a Dance Class or go to the recording studio and record a song.
8) Many of our fans live on the east coast. So with that in mind, can you tell us what it’s like growing up/living in Southern California?
E: I think it’s kind of like living anywhere else, except the weather is usually nicer. In the winter, it gets kind of chilly and sometime rainy, but never as cold as what you guys get in the east. In the summer, it’s usually just as hot, but there’s no humidity, so that makes things a lot more tolerable. And, of course, in Southern California it’s so spread out that you have to drive everywhere. So you spend a lot of time in cars trying to get somewhere. Which can also be good because it gives you extra time to review music or go over your lines (since I’m too young to drive my parents take me).
J: Well, most definitely the weather is the best! Nothing beats Southern California weather. Most days its like 70 to 80 degrees. I love where I live. You can pretty much go to downtown LA if you want museums or theater, or Snow Skiing, or Water Skiing, or to the beach, or Disneyland, or Palm Springs if you want to be out in the desert. You can go to any of these places in under an hour. No where else has so many things you can do. But I do LOVE New York City. And I hope to one day call that my home too. The best of all worlds would be if I could have a home in both places!
9) What do your high school friends think about your Broadway experience? How often does your past experience on Broadway come up in conversation?
E: I started into high school right after I got done with Violet. It was the first time I had been back in LA after two years in New York. I tried to keep my Broadway credits quiet because I didn’t want people to like me or be jealous just because I’d been on Broadway. I don’t bring up my past experience much because I want my current skills to speak for themselves, not my past accomplishments. Sometimes my Musical Theater friends will ask me questions about how things were done in New York in comparison to how they’re being done in the particular project we’re doing, and sometimes I’ll be asked what it was like working with a particular actor, but other than that, it doesn’t come up much.
J: I just started High School this year. And I like to keep the two worlds separate. Most of my closest friends haven’t ever seen me perform. At school I’m just an average girl. I play volleyball, like to tumble and cheer and just hang out with my friends at Starbucks. So I don’t really talk much with anyone about my time on Broadway. Of course every once in a while it comes up when someone first finds out, and that’s always fun.
10) What’s been your favorite memory as a performer?
E: My first opening night is a wonderful memory. There was electricity in the cast and audience, walking the red carpet, attending the opening night party. It was kind of like a dream. I also got to go on once as ‘Lavender’ in Matilda. My main role was ‘Hortensia’, but I understudied for ‘Lavender’, which I got to do once. ‘Lavender’ has a rather lengthy monologue in the show, and I’ll never forget giving that monologue alone on the stage of the Shubert Theater in front of a full house.
J: There are so many. Opening night is so very special, the excitement and all the hard work coming to that one magical night was overwhelming and we were all making our Broadway Debut, so that was a really great night. Also, we were lucky to have Jane Lynch join us during the show and her opening night was really fun because all her “Glee” cast came and saw at the show and we all got to meet them and hang out with them at the afterparty! So that was a pretty special night. But probably the MOST FAVORTIE MEMORY for me was the night I got to go on as Annie for the first time on Broadway. The Palace Theater was standing room only and it was filled to to top balcony! I got a standing ovation and I can t even describe that feeling. It was so so very special, and one I will never forget!
11) What are your plans for the future (Broadway, education, TV, etc.)?
E: I plan to keep pursuing a career as an entertainer/actor. Where exactly that takes me, I have no idea right now. I’m working on developing my skills as an actor and hopefully doing some more film and television work. I just recently performed the role of “Becky” in Transparent! It has been so much fun to work with Jeff Tambor, Kathryn Hahn, Gaby Hoffman and the rest of the cast! But, of course, Broadway is my first love so I imagine I’ll be spending a lot of time in New York, too. I’m currently a sophomore in high school, so I’m just starting to look into colleges. If I do decide to go to college, I’ll most likely pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, which I imagine will be at a school in the East or Midwest
J: When I graduate I want to attend the University of Michigan in their Musical Theater Dept. A lot of the people in our cast went there and I admire all of their work so much. And then, I want to go back to NYC and be on Broadway again one day. That is my number one goal. I want to have an apartment there in the city and just be in the middle of it all. Now that I’m back in LA I am focusing my time on learning my craft and learning about Television and Film Acting. It’s a whole different thing than Musical Theater. I hope to one day have a career where I can maybe do a movie or television and from time to time get the opportunity to be on a Broadway stage again. And have homes in NYC and LA, now THAT would be the perfect life.