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Wranglers Supervise Underage Actors on Broadway

November 30, 2009

What Would Mary Poppins Do?

The first day of rehearsal for "Finian's Rainbow," Alissa Zulvergold brought packets of the multicolored candy Skittles to the three children in the cast. Since then, Ms. Zulvergold, the hit Broadway revival's kid wrangler—she keeps the little performers in line, on their toes and out of everyone else's hair—has diligently worked the rainbow connection. She festooned the children's scripts with rainbow stickers, put bright-hued soaps and markers in their dressing room, and bought them rainbow-colored slinkies and tote bags as opening-night gifts. "I want them to know that they may be the smallest ones there," said Ms. Zulvergold, 26, "but they're just as important as anyone else in the production. They're part of the rainbow."

According to the Actors Equity production contract, shows employing cast members under the age of 18 must provide a "responsible person" to supervise them during rehearsals and performances. Currently, the list includes "Billy Elliot," "Mary Poppins," "The Lion King," "Ragtime," "Shrek," "West Side Story," "Bye Bye Birdie," "South Pacific" and, of course, "Finian's Rainbow."

The technical term for the job is guardian; child wrangler is the barely tolerated nickname. "That makes it sound like we're tending cattle," said John V. Fahey, one of a core group of nine guardians watching over the two dozen young "Billy Elliot" performers. Read More