The Milwe name is well known in Westport.
Sid and Bea were longtime political activists. Alison Milwe Grace is a noted caterer, and much-admired culinary teacher at Staples High School. Many family members still live here.
After graduating from Staples in 1985, Cindy Milwe moved to California. She now teaches middle and high school English in Santa Monica. But her sons are making quite a name for themselves. They’re both on Broadway — in the cast of “School of Rock: The Musical.”
Plenty of Westporters have seen the pulsating Andrew Lloyd Webber smash. But they might not have known they were watching a pair of Milwes. The boys — Jersey and Walden Sullivan — use their father’s last name.
Yet their Westport connection is strong. The town where so many relatives live is just a train ride away from New York. It’s nice to come here. Eight performances a week is never easy.
Particularly when you’re just 12 and 9 years old.
Jersey was the first to join the cast. He’s loved music since he was 2, and for years took lessons through School of Rock — the similarly-named-but-unconnected music education program (a franchise is in Fairfield). Jersey joined the West L.A. house band. He was 10 years old, and life was good.
In the summer of 2015, Cindy and Tom heard about a casting call for the upcoming Broadway production. Jersey didn’t think of himself as a “theater kid,” but he loved the music. He figured, what the heck?
Tom sent a YouTube video of Jersey playing guitar and drums, and singing. The casting director liked it so much, he asked Jersey to fly to New York — the very next day.
The family had already planned to be in Westport the following week. While here, they learned Jersey had landed a role in the ensemble: James, the “security guard”. He’d also understudy for 2 actors: Zack (the guitarist) and Freddie (the drummer).
More than a year later, Jersey is 1 of only 2 original cast members left. Since Walden joined the show last fall, they’re also the only brother act.
Walden’s the true “theater kid” in the family. He’s played the piano, sung and danced since he was 4.
Walden always wondered why his non-theater brother got to be on Broadway. He actually auditioned at the same time Jersey did — the producers may have just humored the 7-year-old — but when the original Lawrence (the keyboardist) got too big for the part, Walden was asked to audition again.
Another kid got the nod.
Yet Walden was called back last summer. He started rehearsing in October, and made his debut November 7.
The road to Broadway was not easy. Jersey was unsure about leaving his family (including an older sister), friends — and his band — behind.
Tom — a copywriter and marketer — got a furnished apartment on the Upper West Side. The lease was 6 months.
Jersey loved his new gig. He quickly bonded with the cast. They eat together often, and have sleepovers.
Jersey was playing with rock stars — including Stevie Nicks and Slash — and was actually a rock star himself. He performed with Lin Manuel Miranda; appeared on “The Today Show,” “The View” and the Tony Awards, and rode on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
When his brother joined the cast, he was happy to stay on.
“It’s a blast,” Jersey says. “The music is a lot of fun. I’ve made lifelong friends. And I learned I could move across the country, and succeed in a new environment.”
He’s also learned how to adapt to Broadway. A few times, he’s had just 15 minutes’ notice to prepare himself for one of his 2 lead roles.
Walden adds, “The best part is meeting new people, and getting to perform.”
Of course, he admits, he was nervous on opening night. But he got good advice — “If you make a mistake, don’t worry” — and ever since, he’s been rockin’ the house.
The Broadway house.
The other day, the cast of “School of Rock” — including Jersey and Walden Sullivan — joined a “Good Morning America” Andrew Lloyd Webber mashup tribute: