This teen has been on Charlotte stages since he was 5. Now, he’s on Broadway.
BY VANESSA INFANZON, ARTS CORRESPONDENT
This article first appeared in the Charlotte Observer on November 22, 2021
Charlotte teenager Atticus Ware and his understudy, Patrick Scott McDermott, pose backstage in front of their dressing room doors at Lincoln Center Theater. COURTESY OF LINCOLN CENTER THEATER
At 4, Atticus Ware was too young to participate in his sister’s tap class, but he’d stand in the doorway to watch. When he was almost 5, the dance instructor invited him in. Nine years later, Ware is tapping across the stage in his first Broadway production.
“My sister started taking a lot of dance classes,” said Ware, 14. “I thought it looked really fun. Tap especially has always been my favorite.”
Ware is acting in “Flying Over Sunset,” a new musical by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner James Lapine, along with Tom Kitt and Michael Korie. The fictitious story, set in 1950s Hollywood, considers what would happen if Cary Grant, Clare Boothe Luce and Aldous Huxley pondered their lives together while under the influence of acid: All have a history of experimenting with LSD in real life. TOP VIDEOS × Ware plays Cary Grant’s character as a kid, Archie Leach. The musical previews through Dec. 12 at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City. The show opens on Dec. 13 and runs through Feb. 6.
Ware was cast in the role of young Cary Grant when he was 11 years old, right before the COVID-19 pandemic closed theaters. It delayed the start of “Flying Over Sunset” by more than a year. The cast stayed in touch through weekly Zoom parties. “When the show closed down, we would get on Zoom and do a two-minute plank and then talk a bit,” Ware said. “It turned into Zoom parties, and those were really fun. It was one of the things that helped me get through quarantine.”
“Fying over Sunset” actors Patrick Scott McDermott, left; Tony Yazbeck, center; and Atticus Ware all play Cary Grant in the show. Yazbeck plays the adult Cary Grant, while Ware plays the young Cary Grant, known as Archie Leach. McDermott is Ware’s understudy. Courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
When the cast returned to in-person rehearsals in October, they started the eight-hour days with a warm-up and then a two-minute plank. “We get into a big circle and everybody goes around the circle and does a warm-up thing like a stretch or jumping jacks,” Ware said.
The rest of the day included practicing tap and singing. Ware worked with Michelle Dorrance, founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance, and choreographer for “Flying Over Sunset.” Dorrance, originally from Chapel Hill, also makes her Broadway debut with this production.
“My tap dancing has gotten much cleaner, and I’ve learned a bunch of new tap steps,” Ware said. “I’ve learned a whole new side of tap dance. With Michelle, I’ve worked a lot more on rhythmic tap — it’s really about the sound. Your feet are the instrument. You can just listen and not watch and still get the same experience.”
Dorrance is familiar with teaching young dancers, but she noticed Ware’s potential and natural ability. When the production was postponed due to COVID-19, she offered dance classes on Zoom. Ware signed up for all of them and told her the classes gave him a reason to get up in the mornings.
“He has a relaxation inside of his technique,” Dorrance said. “You can tell he put his time in. Usually, it takes a certain maturity to start feeling like you can approach some of your technical work with this relaxed effort, which of course is what you want to do as a tap dancer. To see him developing that and sitting in it so naturally is so exciting.”
‘PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT WITH HIS FEET’
When Ware isn’t performing on Broadway, he lives with his family — mom, dad, a brother and a sister — in Charlotte. His mother home schools him.
Ware has performed in several local productions including “Gypsy” at Central Piedmont Community College, “Scrooge” at Matthews Playhouse and “Oliver!” at Theatre Charlotte. When he was 5 years old, Ware’s mom convinced him to audition for the first time for “Tarzan” at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.
“Auditions just make me nervous,” he said. “I think because it’s so up close and personal. You can see everybody sitting there. You can see them taking notes.”
At 14, Atticus Ware has been performing in Charlotte-area productions for years.
Ron Chisholm, the dance instructor who invited Ware into his first tap class, helped him prepare for the audition for “Flying Over Sunset.” Ware was given a combination of dance steps to learn for the “Flying Over Sunset” audition.
“It was a tap audition,” said Chisholm, the guest director and choreographer at Matthews Playhouse. “They’re looking for sound and clarity, and Atticus has that sound and clarity. In tap dancing, he’s playing an instrument with his feet.”
Ware credits Chisholm and other people in the Charlotte community for helping him prepare for the role by attending shows, giving positive feedback and building his confidence. He acknowledges that without the support of his parents, he couldn’t pursue audition for shows in New York.
He’s aware it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I was given the chance to do something this amazing —working with James Lapine, Michelle Dorrance, Tom Kitt, three amazing people on an original Broadway show,” Ware said. “(I am able to be) part of creating a show and just seeing that process.”
“FLYING OVER SUNSET”
What: A new musical by James Lapine, Tom Kitt and Michael Korie featuring Carmen Cusack, Harry Hadden-Paton and Tony Yazbeck with Charlotte teenater Atticus Ware playing Cary Grant as a kid.
When: Previews through Dec. 12 with limited engagement, Dec. 13 through Feb. 6
Where: Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, 150 W. 65th St., New York, NY