PA Cyber student plays 'Annie' on Broadway
Dec 10, 2013
On stage. On Broadway. As Annie in the musical "Annie."
PA Cyber Charter School seventh grader Gabriela "Gaby" Bradbury was tapped as the understudy for the title role of the Broadway musical "Annie" in performances on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 25 and 26, filling in for the regular Annie, Taylor Richardson.
Since July, Gaby, 12, has nightly performed the role of the orphan Pepper in the current revival of the award-winning musical, playing at the Palace Theater.
In late October Gaby became an understudy for the lead role of Annie, that tap-dancing, optimistic little redheaded orphan girl whose belief in "Tomorrow" lifts the nation's spirits during the Depression.
"Annie" normally is presented in eight performances, Tuesday through Sunday, but four shows were added during Thanksgiving week, giving understudies like Gaby a chance to step out and show what they could do.
"It's a dream come true for her, the opportunity of a lifetime," said mother, Monica Bradbury.
Monica and Gaby have taken an apartment in the city for the run of the show, which closes Jan. 5. Gaby's brother, Gregory, and dad, Greg Bradbury, have remained at home in the suburbs of Philadelphia where young Gregory attends a parochial high school and plays soccer and lacrosse.
Gaby attended a parochial middle school through last school year, but that became impossible when Gaby was cast last June to perform on a nightly basis, her mom said.
"We like her regular school; however, in this situation she has to work," Monica said. "I did some research, and I liked PA Cyber because it gave us options."
In her first year in cyber school, Gaby has adjusted very well and is getting straight A's in her virtual classes, according to Tony Jones, her instructional supervisor.
"She loves her classes. It's fun and she likes the other students," her mom said. "I have to say I was a little bit nervous but it has been just wonderful."
Most days there are no conflicts between work and school because Gaby takes virtual classes during the day and performs in the evening. When she first got the understudy role, however, extra daytime rehearsals did cause her to miss some class sessions.
"If she misses a class she can watch the playback," her mom said. "Her teachers have been very supportive."
Gaby, her brother Gregory, 14, and their older sister Greta, 18, have sung, danced and acted for years in regional theater productions. Greta currently is a freshman majoring in musical theatre at Syracuse University. Their mother said Gaby and Greta want to make their careers in theatre.
"I really like it, it's like my job and I get to come here every day," Gaby said during an interview. "The bad part is, no shows on Mondays."
Neither of their parents has theatre backgrounds, but both are committed to supporting their children's dreams. Monica described herself in an interview as "chief taxi driver," shuttling the trio to endless lessons, auditions, rehearsals and performances over the past few years.
Gaby has a long list of regional theatrical credits, including parts in "Inherit the Wind," "The Music Man," "Oliver!," "A Christmas Carol," "Gypsy" with Broadway star Tovah Feldshuh, and the world premiere of Macy's "Yes, Virginia: The Musical."
Just a few months before Gaby originally auditioned for a part in "Annie," she participated in the 2011 Summer Intensive Weekend Showcase put on by the Broadway Dreams Foundation at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center.
By odd coincidence – or was it destiny? – Gaby was chosen during that workshop to perform a number from "Annie" in a duet with Andrea McArdle, star of stage and screen.
McArdle's big break in show business came when she was pulled from the chorus of orphans during rehearsals to take over the role of Annie in the original 1977 production. She became the youngest actress ever to be nominated for a Tony Award as lead actress in a musical.
Destiny took its time in manifesting itself to Gaby, however.
"Gaby made it to the finals in the original auditions in 2011 for 'Annie,' and she was devastated when she didn't get in," her mom said. The show opened without her in November 2012.
As "Annie" promised, "The sun'll come out, tomorrow..." and sure enough, Gaby was called back this past June and successfully auditioned to take over the role of the orphan Pepper. She has been living out her Broadway dream onstage every night since then.
Except Mondays, of course.
About PA Cyber
Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.