Just after emerging from a Fort Myers, Fla., swimming pool for a telephone interview, Kolette Tetlow asked an insightful question.
“When else am I going to get to do this?” said the Mt. Lebanon resident, who at age 8 is in the midst of a yearlong North American tour of the Broadway musical “Once.”
As Ivanka, daughter of the female lead, she is the only child in the cast of the play, which is based on the 2006 film of the same name. As such, she’s a favorite among her fellow cast members.
“Everyone is just so nice to work with,” Kolette said. “They make it really, really fun, just like a family.”
Speaking of family, she has most of hers along for the ride as she travels the continent: her mother, Karly; brother, Keaton, 6; and sister, Korinne, 3. Her father, Nate, travels to the city where the show is playing every couple of weeks.
“This for us has been an incredibly rewarding experience. We do so many things we’d never be able to do otherwise,” Karly Tetlow said. “They’re living the lessons they would have been learning in school.”
The musical’s production company provides a tutor for second-grader Kolette. She will admit that she likes the arrangement better than her usual attendance at Mt. Lebanon’s Markham Elementary.
“I don’t want to go back to school,” she said. “I like school on the road a lot better than sitting at a desk.”
She does get lots of lessons firsthand, such as walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, getting a close-up look at the natural marvel of the Everglades and learning all about Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia.
Mrs. Tetlow home-schools, so to speak, kindergartner Keaton, who is taking well to his on-the-road education.
“He can tell you everything about Paul Revere,” his mother said.
Neither she nor Mr. Tetlow, both Mt. Lebanon High School graduates, has any experience as performers. Kolette, though, displayed such a penchant early.
“She was singing all the time as a really young child,” her mother recalled. “It became clear to us that was her passion, what she really wanted to do.”
Eventually, Kolette was outshining much older youngsters in talent competitions, and the Tetlows were receiving plenty of compliments on their daughter’s behalf. On a whim, Mrs. Tetlow sent a recording of Kolette singing to a New York City talent agency.
“We heard back immediately,” she said, and within a year, the agency had helped land Kolette the part of Ivanka.
Kolette draws a weekly salary that goes into a trust account that will not be available until she turns 18.
“She’ll have a good savings for college,” her mother said.
In the meantime, Kolette said she looks forward to continuing to perform in front of audiences. Stage fright is not an issue.
“I don’t think about anything but what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said.
“Once” will be presented March 11-16 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. For more information: trustarts.culturaldistrict.org/production/37640 or 412-456-4800.
Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving.com.