When Annie rolled into Boston’s Wang Theatre on May 9, it was more than simply a culmination of the massive national tour that’s been zigzagging across the country for the last eight months. It is also a homecoming for two of the musical’s orphans, Amanda and Katie Wylie, sisters that hail from Franklin.
Amanda, 12, plays Tessie, and Katie, 9, plays Duffy. Amanda is a seventh grader at Annie Sullivan Middle School, and Katie is a third grader at Helen Keller Elementary School. While they’ve been on tour for the better part of the last year, Amanda and Katie have been enrolled in a program called TECCA, the Education Collaborative Connections Academy, which has allowed them to continue their studies online.
To give you some idea of their drive, both girls also attend Franklin School for the Performing Arts, supplementing their academic schooling with training in voice, dance, and drama. It appears to have paid off.
Their mother, Kristen Wylie, has been on tour with her daughters every step of the way. That this all worked out as well as it has is due in large part to the support of Kronos, the software company that employs Kristen and that has in place a family-first initiative that allowed her to work remotely from the road. (Her CEO even gave her a hug when he found out the girls had been cast.)
Here, Kristen, Amanda, and Katie reflect on their amazing year with Annie.
Welcome home, girls.
You guys have been on the road for so long, you must be exhausted!
Amanda: Yeah, it’s kind of hard waking up at 6 am to get on the bus and stuff, but it’s worth it when we get to perform at these beautiful theaters in front of giant crowds.
Had you spoken at all as a family about what would happen if maybe only one of you got cast?
Katie: We did; we said one sister could trash the other sister’s room and the other sister could go to Dave and Buster’s.
You’re lucky that you didn’t have to worry about that!
Katie: Now we have clean rooms!
Kristen: It’s so fortunate that I can travel with both girls and I don’t have to feel like one is left behind. Even better that the two of them get to experience this journey together and they’ve always got somebody there. In the hotel room at night, to experience a new city together, to go to a new theatre together—they always have someone to experience that with.
Do you travel on the bus with them and the cast?
Kristen: I do. To put it in perspective, from our last layoff until now, we were back on the road for 56 days; we traveled on the bus for 11,542 miles. We went to 40 different cities, I think it was 22 states and Canada and the girls performed in 57 shows. That was just in the last 56 days between our break from February to April. Overall, they’re going to perform 180 shows across 40 states, so I can’t imagine how many miles we’ve logged on the bus for the whole tour—I don’t think I want to.
When you first got the call letting you know that both of your daughters had been cast, did you have a moment where you sat down and you looked at the schedule and you thought, “How are we going to do this?” or were you just determined from the beginning that it was going to work?
Kristen: We were determined that we were going to make it work. While the girls were auditioning, my husband was like, “This is kind of crazy, what if something happens and they’re actually cast?” My concern was more about what if we’re super lucky and we actually get one in, that is where it would be really difficult. But I knew that we would make it work because it’s such a phenomenal opportunity. I’m very lucky [in that] I work for a large software company, and I went in to my boss on Monday and I said, “This may be nothing, but my daughters have a chance of being selected to be on the national tour of Annie.” So he’s like, “What would that mean?” I said, “Well, I’d be on the road for eight months, do you think we can make that work?” And my boss said, “Kris, it’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of how.” That’s the level of support that I’ve received from work the whole time, so for our family we’re very fortunate; we didn’t have to worry about how we were financially going to make it work. I’ve been able to work from the road, and it’s been even better because I’ve got both girls with me so we can stick together. It’s been great.
Tell me about working with director Martin Charnin, because that’s a really big deal. He’s pretty legendary, do you guys know that?
Amanda: Yeah, he was the one who directed the original Annie on Broadway. He’s 84 now, so it’s pretty amazing that he’s still lively and directing shows.
What are some of the best lessons or tips that you guys have picked up from him?
Amanda: He’s very particular about what he likes. If you do something even a little bit differently he’ll get really mad; he wants each audience to get the same performance.
What’s your favorite part in the show?
Amanda: I really like at the very end when we all come out in our Annie dresses. Mr. Warbucks buys us all Annie’s dress in a different color, and mine’s yellow. And I really love when we bow; I love hearing everyone clapping for us.
Katie: My favorite part is the beginning, because it means the show is not over already.
When you return to school when this is all over, are you going to be the two famous sisters who’ve been out traveling the country?
Katie: I hope that they think that, that would be really cool. But at the same time, I kind of want them to treat me to same way. It might be kind of awkward if they’re like, “Oh, the Wylies!”
ANNIE. 5.9–5.21 AT BOCH CENTER’S WANG THEATRE, 270 TREMONT ST., BOSTON. BOCHCENTER.ORG
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.