Less than a year ago, 10-year-old actress Alyssa Marvin got a call from her agent. “Do you have a lot of suitcases?” the agent asked.
“Good, because you’re going on the ‘School of Rock’ national tour.”
Shrieking and jumping, Alyssa was so excited she knocked over half the decorations her mother, Lynn Marvin, had strewn across her room in celebration.
It was a long-held dream for the Greenacres fifth-grader, who is on tour as kid-band backup singer Marcy in the musical’s Broadway national tour. Alyssa has performed in more than 250 shows in 25 cities across the U.S. and Canada. She will visit 25 more cities over the next three months, including Washington, D.C., and Boston.
Alyssa has dreamed of a life onstage since she saw “Annie” on Broadway at age 4. She cried from the audience, declaring she wanted to climb up and act herself.
Alyssa’s mother affirmed she always had a flair for theatrics.
“When she was really little, we put her in those local dance classes like everyone does,” Lynn said, “and all the little girls were wandering around … and she was the only one dead-on … with the choreography, and [she] just had a presence.”
To hone her talents, Lynn enrolled Alyssa in lessons at Random Farms Kids Theater. She got her first off-Broadway show at age 6 with “Number the Stars,” and nabbed her first international tour at 8 with “Annie.” Alyssa played Molly, the littlest orphan. That summer, she and her mother toured Southeast Asia, from Jakarta to Singapore, with the show’s cast and crew.
The “School of Rock” tour is a longer stretch — Alyssa’s contract started in February 2018 — so she’s missing school for about a year. Before she left, Alyssa’s teacher gave her the materials to stay on track. On tour, she works mostly independently, with the guidance of three tutors who travel with the production. The young thespians study their individual curriculums for 15 hours every week, and take weekly field trips to museums and historical sites like Mount Rushmore, the Supreme Court of Canada and the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
“This is all so strange to me,” she said. “It’s weird there’s not an actual teacher; I’m just kind of doing it on my own … [But] I really like the field trips. It’s a really nice way to get to see the city.”
After nine months on the road, Alyssa said she’s mostly homesick for her friends, siblings (Andrew, 8, Julia, 6) and Cookie, her pet Havanese.
“It’s definitely hard to have to leave him at home,” she said. “My siblings, I can always FaceTime … But I don’t really get to see [Cookie] that often.”
Even if the family manages to get him on camera, “He doesn’t really understand FaceTime. If we go, ‘Cookie, Cookie, it’s Alyssa, it’s Mommy,’ he’ll be like ‘What?’”
Still, she’s enjoying tour life. She always has a parent with her (her mother and father switch off); the cast gets along great — “We’re all really good friends” — and she loves getting onstage and just “rocking out.” On Halloween, the production team set up trick-or-treating backstage, and filled an overhead “School of Rock” banner with candy before spilling it onstage like a giant piñata.
Alyssa’s longtime friend and classmate, Caleb Paul, is also on tour with Broadway’s “Finding Neverland.” Caleb alternates as three of the four Llewelyn Davies boys, who inspired J.M. Barrie to pen the childhood classic “Peter Pan.”
“I just fell in love with the show instantly,” Caleb said.
The 10-year-old actor had a similarly early start on stage, studying the cello at age 4 and acting in school productions through elementary school. He earned the title role of Peter Pan in his third-grade class, and later, played alongside Alyssa in Yorktown Stage’s “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Caleb grew up on Pan, calling the character “playful” and “wonderful.” Pan’s refusal to grow older was “definitely” relatable, Caleb added. “I do not want to grow up.”
The show kicked off its national tour on Oct. 2 in Hershey, Pennsylvania; Caleb is contracted through June.
Caleb is one of six actors playing the Llewelyn Davies brothers. A challenge for any actor, yet he said learning three sets of lines was surprisingly doable. “At first it was difficult, but I sort of figured it out and it’s not hard at all now,” he said. “It’s actually been really fun.”
He added he doesn’t prefer one character to another. “I like them all,” he said. “They’re so totally, completely different.”
The most relatable, according to Caleb, is Peter, the second oldest Davies boy whose character arc we follow through the eyes of the Scottish playwright.
Both Caleb and the Peter character are avid readers, and “he likes to do his own thing sometimes,” Caleb said. “That’s sort of me as well.”
The young actor has plenty of time to read backstage; currently, he’s reading Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”