Stage & Dance

Broadway bet pays off for Shuck family with three sisters in shows

The Shuck sisters: Brooklyn Shuck, who is one of four actresses playing the title role in "Matilda - The Musical" on Broadway; Sydney Shuck, who is playing Kate and covering the title role in the national tour of "Annie" and Raleigh Shuck, who is playing Cindy Lou Who on the national tour of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Photo by Peggy Stamps.
The Shuck sisters: Brooklyn Shuck, who is one of four actresses playing the title role in "Matilda - The Musical" on Broadway; Sydney Shuck, who is playing Kate and covering the title role in the national tour of "Annie" and Raleigh Shuck, who is playing Cindy Lou Who on the national tour of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Photo by Peggy Stamps.

It was a time of great anticipation and some dread for the Shuck family.

Youngest daughter Raleigh was up for a role in the national tour of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. It would be a great coup for the 8-year-old aspiring actress, but it also would make life very interesting because her oldest sister, Sydney, was already out on tour with Annie, and middle sister Brooklyn was starring on Broadway as one of four actresses sharing the title role in Matilda the Musical.

"We decided early on that we would give them the opportunities, and if it worked out, we'd make it work," the girls' mother, Angie Shuck, said from Salt Lake City, where she and Raleigh were just getting ready for a week of performances in the Utah capital. "And that's what we've done. We've made it work."

While having three pre-teen children in three different parts of the country would be hair-raising for many parents, Raleigh's booking as Cindy Lou Who in Grinch amounts to a final affirmation that the family made the right move last year when it picked up and moved from Lexington to midtown Manhattan to help launch the girls' stage careers.

Less than three years ago, the girl's father, T.G. Shuck, was the family celebrity as the chief meteorologist at WKYT-TV 27. He resigned from the post in February 2012, and went to work for New York Life. Soon after that, Brooklyn started making news being cast in the Broadway revival of Annie.

"This would have been impossible to do had I stayed in television," Shuck says, noting that they were not planning to move to New York when he left WKYT, but things were starting to head in that direction. "I'm a big believer that timing is everything, and in this case, it worked out nicely for everyone."

Brooklyn was the first to land a role on Broadway, but Angie says it was Sydney, 11, who first caught the acting bug working with the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre's Academy for Creative Excellence, a program for school-age children.

"The first time I was on stage, just looking at the people and hearing them cheer for me, it made me feel good, and I wanted to keep doing it," Sydney says from Chicago, where the Annie tour has stopped for a two-week stand. "I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to be on Broadway."

They really thought Brooklyn, 9, was more interested in sports. But she decided to try the stage and found she liked it as much as her sister. And ultimately, it was her Annie contract that really put things in motion. Angie says they did not know much about auditioning for New York shows when they went the first time, but just decided to give it a shot.

While Brooklyn was in Annie, there was a lot of shuttling between Lexington and New York for the Shuck family in 2013.

"That gave us time to think about whether we really wanted to make this move," Angie says. "What we realized was that while we were able to fly back and forth for auditions for Annie, if we really wanted them to have a chance to pursue this, we needed to be in the city. And it was a huge leap of faith, because we decided to move to New York at the end of Brooklyn's contract, so there was no guarantee she was going to work.

"We just knew the only way for her and the others to have a chance was to be there. So it was a lot of prayers, and everything just sort of allowed us to move there."

The girls are tutored when on the road and all three attend New York City public schools when they're home. Both T.G. and Angie say they love the city's public schools.

They all miss home to certain extents and keep Kentucky in their lives. Brooklyn, performing two shows a week, says her Matilda dress station is decked out in University of Kentucky gear.

But this family of Kentuckians — Angie is from Pikeville and T.G. is a native Lexingtonian — likes living in New York City.

"I love all the lights, and it's so bright," says Brooklyn, who adds that during the holidays, "It's surprisingly a lot brighter."

T.G., who now works at the New York Life home office, says, "I'm a runner, and when the weather is nice I'll run down the Hudson River Park there and you feel like you're at the beach because the wind is coming off the water and you have this incredible view of lower Manhattan and the new World Trade Center ... and most days I look up and say, 'How did I end up here?' It's really, really a lot of fun."

But right now, three-fifths of the family are road warriors getting to experience numerous American cities while performing eight shows a week.

"We're getting to see places we never would have seen otherwise," Angie says of herself and Raleigh on the Grinch tour. Their previous stops before Salt Lake were Albuquerque, N.M., and Oklahoma City, and she says that Raleigh wants to stay in every city they visit.

On the first national tour of Annie, Sydney, who plays the orphan Kate and covers the role of Annie, has been hitting major cities and enjoying experiences like pouring tea in Boston Harbor and enjoying the beach life in Ft. Lauderdale.

"I get to see what every city has to offer: museums, historic sites, monuments, everything that makes the city special," says Sydney, whose tour chaperone is a former dance teacher in Lexington, Alex Winn-Marvin.

One of the downsides of all the travel is coming up as the family will not be together for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They will finally be together the week of New Year's Day, when the Grinch tour winds up and Annie takes a holiday break before heading back out to cities including Philadelphia, New Orleans, Denver and Costa Mesa, Calif.

"It can be hard, but this is what we signed up for," Angie says.

T.G., whose job keeps him in New York most of the time, says, "You just learn to absorb every moment you have with them and appreciate the experience they are getting. There are people who work their whole lives and never get this kind of chance, and they are doing this at 8, 9 and 11."