Young actor from Arlington Heights lands role in Broadway musical about 1950s Hollywood
At the wise old age of 12, Patrick McDermott of Arlington Heights landed the chance of a lifetime: He was cast in a new musical making its world premiere next week on Broadway.
Patrick is the understudy to 14-year old Atticus Ware of Charlotte, North Carolina. Together, they play a young Cary Grant in the new musical "Flying Over Sunset" by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner James Lapine, along with Tom Kitt and Michael Korie.
"All I ever really wanted to do was to perform, whether it was at home or on a stage somewhere," Patrick said in an interview last week. "But, obviously, working on Broadway is a dream come true.
"So far, the experience has been amazing and everything I hoped it would be," he adds. "I'm having so much fun learning from the other actors, getting to know some amazing people and doing fun things in New York."
The role comes on the heels of being cast last year in the touring production of "Les Mis." But the pandemic changed all that, and two months into the run Patrick and the other cast members were sent home.
"During quarantine, I spent most of my time working on getting better at performing through Zoom lessons," Patrick says. "I was also lucky enough to be able to participate in a number of virtual performance opportunities."
When restrictions slowly lifted, auditions started rolling in, including this one at Lincoln Center Theater in New York.
The musical is set in 1950s Hollywood and explores a fictional meeting between Cary Grant, Clare Boothe Luce and Aldous Huxley while under the influence of LSD. Apparently, they all had a history of experimenting with LSD in real life.
Patrick's mother, Julie McDermott, has watched countless rehearsals and says that the show's music and lyrics, as well as its score, help to tell the story in a unique way.
"This show has a very interesting story, and we are glad that Patrick is at an age that he can understand the content," she says. "We definitely did some explaining, but overall he is thrilled to be able to work with such an incredible team."
One of the highlights of the show is a five-minute tap dance that pairs young Cary Grant with his adult self, played by Tony Yazbeck, dancing their hearts out in an incredibly difficult number.
To do it, Patrick credits his start at McDonald Dance Academy and taking theater and voice classes -- and appearing in productions -- at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, both in Arlington Heights.
"They gave me so many opportunities when I was really young to express myself and to perform," Patrick says, "and McDonald set me up to really start to love tap dancing."
Just five years ago, Patrick shared the role of Tiny Tim in "A Christmas Carol" at the Metropolis, where teachers remember him as a breakout star, even at a young age.
Dan O'Hara worked with Patrick in some of the summer camps at the Metropolis, and he remembers other teachers saying, "Wait till you see this kid perform. He's a star."
"Patrick came into the program with such bravado and poise at a really young age," O'Hara says. "There are not many kids who could nail a role like Harold Hill from The Music Man, or Genie from Aladdin at around 6 or 7 years old. Patrick was that kid. It just came so naturally."
Julie McDermott says her youngest son always loved to tell stories and perform on a makeshift stage at home. He took to it naturally, watching his three older siblings -- Jimmy, Molly and Erin -- all compete at the national level in speech.
His father, Scott McDermott, now the principal of Wheaton Warrenville High School, spent 25 years coaching speech at Prospect and Glenbrook South high schools.
"He's been so lucky to have amazing local opportunities in the Chicago area. But, of course, he dreamed of going to Broadway someday," Julie McDermott says. "We had no idea that his dream would come true at such a young age -- and, of course, we are immensely proud of him."