When I Grow Up: Zoe Manarel Goes from Matilda Maggot to an American Girl

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When I Grow Up, our #Broadway kid alumni series, continues with Zoe Manarel who made her Broadway debut at the age of 9 in the smash-hit Matilda! Since then, she has starred in The Secret Garden at The Denver Center and is now starring in the new American Girl movie “Summer Camp, Friends for Life”, a story about Z Yang (American Girl’s newest doll) who loves film making and stop motion. We talked with Zoe Manarel about her journey to Broadway and beyond.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

When I was little I always sang and everyone said I had a great voice for a kid my age, but mom would say that they are confusing my cuteness for talent. She did not think a 6 or 7-year-old could actually have a good voice so she just ignored them, One day a someone suggested that she take me to someone to see if I actually had some talent, so my mom caved in and took me to a Lady by the name of Becky Baxter Ford, she said I had a very good voice for my age, my mom thanked her and left. A couple of days later we got a call from her asking if I wanted to audition for Annie on Broadway! It turned out that Miss Becky’s husband was Merwin Ford who played FDR in the musical, Annie, and he got me an appointment to audition for an orphan! My mom was NOT very into this but said I could go and see what happened. I went straight into call backs, and had no idea what I was doing but I had a lot of fun and got through the first 3 cuts – I did not book the role but I LOVED auditioning and begged my mom to continue and after a lot of talking with my Dad, they said I could continue, so we went and I did a showcase at A Class Act NYC with Jessica Rolfe and that’s where my Agency, CESD found me! It’s been amazing ever since!

What was your audition process like for Matilda?

I started auditioning for Matilda when I was 7 and of course I was too little – so for the next year and a half they called me back three or four times for the role of Matilda but I didn’t get it – But in June 2015 I was called in for the role Lavender and then a few days later I was called in for finals with a bunch of other amazing kids that were all trying out for different roles – we went in a did the dances and sang and then left – and then a few days later I found out I booked the role of Lavender!

Take us through the moment you found out you booked Matilda.

Well, my mom made a card with a photo of me dressed up like Lavender and it said, “CONGRATULATIONS Zoe! You booked the role of Lavender!!!” and she put in an envelope and made it look like it was mailed to me –

So she went out the mailbox and said I received a letter. On the outside, it was addressed to me but said it was from a secret person –

When I opened it I read it and at first, I got excited but then I thought it was a prank so I didn’t know what to think – when my mom explained it wasn’t a joke I went CRAZY, I jumped up and down and was screaming !!!! I couldn’t believe it!

I have a video on my Instagram that my mom taped when I first opened the “letter” that said I booked the part:

(READ MORE AFTER THE JUMP)

What usually goes into preparing for a performance of “Matilda” (i.e. warming up)?

Wow – there is a lot of daily prep that is expected of the kids – First is that the kids have a 2 hour call time instead of a 1/2 hour like most shows – but it totally makes sense – because of the all the dancing we do, and the scenes with dangerous props like with swings and vaulting, so the 2 hours are used in doing calisthenics, voice warm-up, notes, and safeties for the dangerous scenes – This way the chance of something going wrong was less and everyone was prepared to do their best!

What was it like living in California while you filmed American Girl: Summer Camp?

I totally LOVED living in LA! It has such a relaxing vibe compared to NYC – no one seems to be rushing anywhere. We had an Air B&B which was really nice and close to everything even though we had to drive everywhere but I didn’t mind – I loved shopping at the GROVE and visiting the HOLLYWOOD sign and Grumens Chinese Theater and making my own star on the walk of fame which looked REAL! The whole trip was amazing and I hope to spend more time there in the future.

What was it like filming in the woods?

I loved filming in the woods and at an actual summer camp! It had a cafeteria, bunks, and cool hiking trails, all the things a great summer camp should have. Filming there made the whole thing more real for me and sometimes on my down time I was able to take pictures of the beautiful nature around me. The one crazy thing I saw was a pack of coyotes! I only saw them when we were done filming for the day, around sundown, but I saw them a few times and that was REALLY cool!

Have you ever tried filmmaking like Z does?

Oh I am always making films at home – it’s actually one of my favorite interests – I love filming outside and trying different angles to catch the light in different ways – I usually make the story up as I go , my focus is more on the actual filming – I have my own camera which is a Canon ( not an iPhone) and I love using that to film – I could definitely see myself being a director or cinematographer when I grow up.

Do you have anything fun planned for the summer?

I have one project planned – But other than that I’m planning on seeing my friends, swimming, taking Spanish lessons and I definitely want to see Dear Evan Hanson this summer ( if we can get tickets ) – My family usually goes on a trip but we haven’t planned it yet, but whatever it is I’m sure it will be a lot of fun !

Do you have any advice for kids who want to become professional actors?

I would tell them they need to be committed, and that they need to NOT get discouraged if they don’t book things right away – They need to focus on the Call back, that’s what I always focus on – because only one kid gets the role, but if you get called back that means you did everything right and to me that’s a WIN!!! and now at the CB they need to fit the right actor to the role – My mom told me that its like a puzzle, make-believe the whole puzzle is completed except for one piece – and that piece is a specific size, shape, and color and only one piece will fit into that specific puzzle, so if you don’t get something, don’t take it personally, it’s not because your not talented, you just didn’t fit into that particular puzzle and Dont Give Up there will be lots more puzzles to come 🙂

SPEED ROUND

1) Favorite thing to do in NYC – Go to Broadway shows , play at the park on 43rd street with my friends and EAT !!!!

2) Favorite food to eat in NYC/Favorite restaurant in NYC – I’m a foodie so this is a hard question but I LOVE soup dumplings and shrimp scampi those are my favorite foods to eat anywhere! One of my favorite Italian restaurants would be Becco on 46th street – and my favorite soup dumpling place would be Real Kung Fu Little on 8th Ave, and my favorite place to get something quick and delicious would be City Kitchen!

3) Broadway dream role – I would love to be the lead in an Original Broadway show, BUT my dream kid role would be Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden and my Grown Up dream role would be Eliza in Hamilton –

4) If someone wrote a musical about your life, what would it be called and what is the name of your show-stopping, 11 o’clock number?
“Unexpected” would be the name of my musical, (and it would be in a really cool font so it looks mysterious!) and Defying Gravity would be the show-stopping, 11 o’clock number.

“Summer Camp, Friends for Life” is now streaming on Amazon! Thank you Zoe and mom Laura for answering our questions. Trailer below!

New MISS SAIGON Cast Members, MISS SAIGON and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE to Offer Rush Tickets, and more!

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Congratulations to Brandon Pereyra and Samuel Li Weintraub, who have joined the cast of Miss Saigon as Tam!

Miss Saigon has announced that the production will offer rush tickets! Get more details on TheaterMania.com. In addition, Sunday in the Park with George has announced that they will continue to offer rush tickets through the end of their run! Find out more, also on TheaterMania.com.

Finn Douglas (Radio City Christmas Spectacular) has booked a voiceover commercial!

Get a sneak peek at The Light Years at Playwrights Horizons on TheaterMania.com!

We hope everyone attending Kids’ Night On Broadway has a great time!

Eleanor Koski (Les Miserables) makes peanut butter cups with her sister in this Broadway Bakes video!

Watch Dylan Boyd (Finding Neverland) sing at a Madison Square Garden halftime show!

And here are pictures from the kids of Dream Street, Matilda, On Your Feet, School of Rock, Waitress, and Kinky Boots!

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BroadwayCon Kid Panel Announced, HAIRSPRAY LIVE Press Photos, and more!

The participants on the Kids of Broadway panel for BroadwayCon have been announced! Ava Briglia (Matilda), Ben Cook (Billy Elliot, Ragtime), Sophia Gennusa (Doctor Zhivago, Matilda), Heidi Gray (Annie tour), Jake Lucas (The King and I, Newsies), Sydney Lucas (Fun Home), Taylor Richardson (Smokefall, Annie, A Christmas Memory), and Allie Trimm (13, Bye Bye Birdie) will all be panelists. Find out more on Playbill.com or in the Instagram below:


Check out pictures from the Hairspray Live press junket on Hollywood.com!

The kids of Broadway recorded a song to promote anti-bullying! More details to come; here’s a picture of them in the recording studio:

Shahadi Wright Joseph (Hairspray Live, School of Rock, The Lion King) will release a holiday EP! Find out more:


It's that time of the year! So, let's share some music and joy with the whole family! My debut holiday mini- EP, LOVE FOR THE HOLIDAYS is available for pre-order on iTUNES 11/24 THANKSGIVING DAY! Full release date on December 8th!! #lovefortheholidays Photo by @madworksphoto @kevinajoseph @sormusical @microbloggingchloe @abrightmonster @jerseysullivan @thejeannieshow @natalielewisdesign @treywhitfieldschool @madworksphoto @cojomoto @youngbwaynews @akilaworksongs @fairweatherfaces @magickaleva @andrewlloydwebber @aclassactny @adowaohenma @adriandances @arianagrande @jennaortega @aubreylynch @officialsierraboggess @maddiebaillio @thebobbimackenzie @lightskinn_simba @luke_bonenfant @briannhira @bwayserves @gilglenn @photobloggingdee @douglasbaldeo @jeroboamb @realestatetray @funeral_fab @blackgirlsrock @officialbroadwayworld @brunomars @lumumbabandele @beyonce

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And here are pictures and videos from the kids of Kinky Boots, Falsettos, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Matilda, The Lion King, School of Rock, and Hairspray Live!

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Updated YBAN Alumni Database, Taylor Richardson in “Easy Living,” and more!

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Check out our new and improved Broadway kid alumni database! With more than 600+ kids on the website since our launch in 2010, we’ve compiled a searchable database to keep up with their projects. Users can search by name and by show. If your child is not listed but is an alum of ours, contact us with the following:

  • Two headshots (one during their time on Broadway and a current one)
  • Non-theatre projects completed since their Broadway or Off-Broadway debut. These projects include film, TV, music, and commercials!

Congrats to Taylor Richardson (Annie, Smokefall, A Christmas Memory), who will appear in the film “Easy Living”! Get more details on IMDb.com.

Nerghiz Sarki (Fiddler on the Roof, Dream Street) has booked a role on “Super Wings”! Find out more:

And here are pictures and videos from the kids of Matilda, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Waitress, On Your Feet, and Falsettos!

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Follow YBAN Alumni on Kids on Tour, FALSETTOS Announces Online Lottery, and more!

Lots of our alumni are going on tour or are already performing in national tours! Follow their adventures on the road at our sister site Kids on Tour! These alumni include:

  • Amanda Swickle (Tink!), who will be performing in Annie as Pepper
  • K’Lynn Jackman (The Lion King), who will be performing in A Christmas Story as Nancy
  • Alessandra Baldacchino (Fun Home, A Little Princess), who will be performing in Fun Home as Small Alison
  • Graham Montgomery (Kinky Boots), who will be performing in The King and I as Louis Leonowens
  • Adriana Braganza (The King and I), who will be performing in The King and I as a Royal Child
  • Amaya Braganza (The King and I, Annie), who will be performing in The King and I as a Royal Child
  • Ashley Brooke (Doctor Zhivago, Dream Street), who is currently performing in The Sound of Music as Louisa
  • Kyla Carter (Number the Stars), who is currently performing in The Sound of Music as Marta

Falsettos has announced that it will have an online lottery! Get more information on TheaterMania.com.

The Tony Awards ceremony has been set for June 11, 2017, with nominations being announced on May 2, 2017! Find out more on Playbill.com.

Watch Gregory Diaz (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown) rap with Hamilton star Javier Muñoz at Broadway Flea Market in the video below!

And here are pictures and videos from the kids of School of Rock, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, On Your Feet, Matilda, Falsettos, and Waitress!

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A BRONX TALE Casting Announced, GoFundMe from Giuseppe Bausilio, and more!

Hudson Loverro (Kinky Boots tour, Ragtime on Ellis Island) and Athan Sporek (Les Miserables, A Day by the Sea) have joined the cast of A Bronx Tale! Hudson will play Young Calogero, and Athan will be the alternate for Young Calogero. Congrats, boys! Find out more on Playbill.com.

Alum Giuseppe Bausilio (Newsies, Billy Elliot), who has appeared in Aladdin and Cats on Broadway since, and is supposed to be in the cast of Hello, Dolly! next year, needs your help! Take a look at his GoFundMe page for his medical expenses HERE.

BroadwayWorld has a ton of coverage from Broadway Flea Market! Check out photos of the booths HERE, and pictures from the autograph table including Shahadi Wright Joseph (Hairspray Live, School of Rock, The Lion King) HERE. Finally, you can watch a video of all the booths you may have missed below or HERE!

“The Women’s Bathroom Project,” a new film featuring Alyssa Marvin (Dream Street, Number the Stars), will screen next month in New York! Find out more in Alyssa’s Facebook post:

“Containment,” featuring Zachary Unger (Big Fish, Chaplin, Newsies), is coming to Netflix on October 21st! Get more information on Inquisitr.com.

And here are pictures from the kids of The King and I, Les Miserables, Matilda, Billy Elliot, Fun Home, School of Rock, Waitress, and On Your Feet!

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Gabriella Pizzolo and Grace Capeless Cast in “Beaches” Remake, LYRICS FOR LIFE Coming Up Soon, and more!

Congratulations to Gabriella Pizzolo (Fun Home, Matilda) and Grace Capeless (The Lion King, Matilda, A Christmas Story), who have both been cast in the upcoming movie remake of “Beaches”! Gabby will play Young CC, the younger version of Idina Menzel’s character, and Grace will play Young Hillary, the younger version of Nia Long’s character. Find out more on TVLine.com!

Get your tickets now for Lyrics for Life, which is Saturday, September 10th; they’re going fast! Get more details HERE.

Hear Caleb McLaughlin (The Lion King, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek) sing from The Lion King on EW.com!

And here are pictures and videos from the kids of Fun Home, School of Rock, Matilda, Les Miserables, Ruthless!, and Kinky Boots!

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Kevin Tellez’s Birthday, LYRICS FOR LIFE Coming Up Soon, and more!

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Happy birthday to Kevin Tellez (On Your Feet)! We hope you had a great day, Kevin!

Get your tickets for Lyrics for Life now! It’s almost sold out. It will feature Oona Laurence (Matilda), Annabelle Kempf (Billy Elliot), Laurissa Romain (South Pacific), Ashley Brooke (Doctor Zhivago, Dream Street), Sumaya Bouhbal (Runaways), Mavis Simpson-Ernst (You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Evita, A Little Princess), GiaNina Paolantonio (Matilda), Elizabeth Crawford (Tuck Everlasting), Christie Kim (The King and I), Sophie Knapp (Once, A Little Princess, Dream Street), Abbey Rose Gould (A Little Princess), Peyton Ella (The Sound of Music LIVE, A Little Princess), Ethan Haberfield (Mary Poppins), Frenie Acoba (Runaways, Matilda), Taylor Caldwell (Runaways, School of Rock), Chris Sumpter (Runaways, Matilda), Luka Kain (South Pacific), Stephen Sayegh (A Little Princess), and more to be announced! Find out more on the Facebook event.

Anthony Rosenthal‘s Broadway debut in Falsettos is featured on Playbill.com!

And here are pictures and videos from the kids of On Your Feet, School of Rock, Fun Home, Les Miserables, Kinky Boots, Matilda, Falsettos, and The Lion King!


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Alessandra Baldacchino Performing at Broadway in Chicago, A Parents Guide to Broadway Workshop, and more!

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Check out this video of Alessandra Baldacchino performing “Ring of Keys” and “Flying Away” with her Fun Home castmates at the Broadway in Chicago concert last week!

Don’t forget to sign up HERE for the “A Parents Guide to Broadway” workshop! The deadline is September 1st.

And here are pictures and videos from the kids of The Lion King, Kinky Boots, Les Miserables, Fun Home, School of Rock, Matilda, and A Day by the Sea!

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Pictures and Videos from SCHOOL OF ROCK, ON YOUR FEET, WAITRESS, and more!

Check out these pictures and videos from the kids of School of Rock, On Your Feet, Waitress, Matilda, Fun Home, and Les Miserables!

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