NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - There’s no business like show business for 13-year-old Sydney Chan, a New Providence Middle School student, who landed a role in the National Touring Company of The King and I. This is her third tour with a Broadway production; Chan toured in 2015 and 2016 with A Christmas Story. She is enjoying life on the road as part of the big touring company. “The best part of traveling with a national tour is visiting all of the cities and getting to know the country better,” said Sydney.
Her love of the theater started when she was four, Sydney’s mom took her to Beauty and the Beast at the Summit Playhouse, a few years later she saw a friend in their Wizard of Oz production and asked her mom if she could do that too. She auditioned the next summer. “I played the part of the Honeybee in Winnie the Pooh and that's how it all started,” said Sydney. Under the direction of Lindsay Maron, Sydney performed with Pixie Dust Players at The Summit Playhouse in several musical productions there from 2012 to 2015. With many of her theater friends moving on to professional work, Sydney started dance lessons in NYC as well as with her local recreation teacher in New Providence. Very soon after, she was booked to the national tour of A Christmas Story for the 2015 and 2016 holiday season. She was asked to return this year but she took a last minute offer to join The King and I.
Sydney’s typical day is a little different than most middle schoolers, she’s up late at night, so her day starts at 10:30 a.m., then she heads to “school”, which on a national tour is four hours of tutoring with the other cast members, then lunch, dinner and off to hair and make-up. After that it’s a three-hour performance of The King and I and back to the hotel.
Her mom, May Chan, who is traveling along with her daughter on this adventure, had to overcome a fear of flying to accompany her on the road and through city after city as the troupe travels around the United States. “I have had a pretty good experience so far, with all three tours. I am lucky to have worked with great production companies and have the support of the other families touring and often refer to them as my 'village' on the road. We take care of each other,” said Chan.
For mother and daughter, the best part about the tour is seeing the country. “My favorite cities are San Francisco, because I had family friends there, who showed me the nice parts of the city; Las Vegas, since I loved the different mini versions of famous statues and structures form around the world; New Orleans, for its amazing beignets and its street markets,” said Sydney. Her mom agrees, “This has all been a gift, and I try to remember that when I stress about the school work or getting on that plane again for the next city. The best thing is getting to see the country in that process and making memories.”
Even so, life on the road is somewhat similar to life in New Providence, “It's not unlike how it would be at home, having play dates and filling in for another parent, except we're in a new location almost every week.”
Sydney’s father and brother have had to make a few sacrifices holding down the fort in New Providence, but also were able to go on the road for a bit to visit the production when it came to Dallas for Christmas. “Not all fathers or husbands are willing to play double-duty and hold down the fort at home while half his family go touring the country for at least half a year,” said Chan.
Sydney tries to stay in touch with her friends from New Providence, trying to be mindful of time zones, as she criss-crosses the country; on her breaks from the show she comes home to catch up in person. Currently, the tour is in Naples, and then Sydney is heading for California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Massachusetts, to name but a few. Life on tour has its ups and downs, “On weekends, I don't have school, but I have a matinee, so the schedule is similar, except the matinee takes the place of school. On travel days, I spend half of the day on a plane and the other half exploring my new city or getting groceries with my mom.”
She is enjoying the cast which is made up of performers of all ages. “The whole cast is amazing and I'm glad that I can get to know them. I talk to the other kids in the show, and we get to hang out on our free time, go to the pool or see a movie at the theater. Sometimes the adult cast members plan parties, for Christmas and New Year's Eve, or just a simple Tuesday Taco day, and invite the kids, too, so that’s really nice.”
Sydney will likely finish out the remainder of the tour’s run in Toronto this summer. She is planning to return to New Providence Middle School in the fall for eighth grade and she looks forward to her next opportunity. In the meantime, she is doing voice-overs for Mother Goose Club, (she voices the role of Bo-peep) and then, “I'm going to focus more on trying to get films because I'm 13 now and there aren't a lot of professional musical theater options for older kids,” she said, “and also, I want a dog.” But for now she’s just enjoying her life on tour, so give her regards to Broadway.