Timeout New York Kids

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Julianne Moore

The Oscar-nominated actress chats about the new musical based on her children's book, Freckleface Strawberry.

  • Julianne Moore with show creator/producer Rose Caiola

  • Julianne Moore with the cast of Freckleface Strawberry

  • Freckleface Strawberry

Julianne Moore with show creator/producer Rose Caiola

Fresh off her critically acclaimed turn as a lesbian mother in The Kids Are All Right, NYC-based actor, author and parent Julianne Moore is promoting a new show she hopes families will find more than just all right: . Based on Moore's best-selling, semiautobiographical picture book of the same name, the musical concerns a precocious seven-year-old girl who hates her freckles. Conceived for the stage by local mom and Manhattan Movement &amp founder Rose Caiola and featuring songs by Gary Kupper, the show is currently playing Off Broadway at New World Stages. Moore spoke to Time Out Kids about her tale's journey from page to stage, and her busy life as a movie star and mom to Caleb, 12, and Liv, 8.

Although you wrote the book upon which it's based, you weren't super-involved with the creation of the musical. Now that you've seen it, is it what you envisioned?
I saw it at various stages—different workshops and rehearsals—and I just saw it in its final form about a week ago. My book was optioned and someone started to develop it, but I never actually thought that it would become a real musical. It's kind of amazing! What's so nice about the theater is how moved and involved the audience becomes, particularly children. That's been very, very exciting.

Do you feel like you're watching your seven-year-old self?
You know, I don't. When I wrote the book, I took an idea from my childhood and kind of expanded upon it. Now the character has become a separate being. My daughter was so sweet when she went to see the show with me. At the end, the characters talk about how Strawberry grows up and has a boy and a girl. My daughter was absolutely thrilled about that. And that came straight out of the book: On the last page, there's a picture of the family, with a boy and a girl.

Has your son seen the show?
My son is 12 and a half—he'll be 13 in December—so he's not dying to go [Laughs]. But he very nicely agreed to accompany us on opening night. You know, he's a great kid. I think he'll enjoy it. And he's a musician, so maybe he'll like the music.

Your kids are at very different ages. Do you find lots of things to do all together?
Yes! New York is great that way, mostly because of the parks. I can't imagine what we'd do if we didn't have them. Central Park is amazing. Everyone likes to climb on those big rocks, all the playgrounds are good, and you can throw a ball. We like that, and we take our dogs to the dog parks. And we go to the theater.

What are some of your kids' favorite shows?
They both really liked . They're very modern children, and they have a hard time with anything that has a lot of ballads. We saw Pajama Game and they both enjoyed it, but whenever there was a ballad, they'd ask me for candy. They like shows that have a lot of movement; that keeps them engaged.

Finding the right school is especially difficult in NYC. How did you deal with that?
It's definitely been challenging. One thing I always tell parents when they're looking is that there's a place for everyone. Don't panic because you didn't get into a particular place. Obviously I think school matters, but I don't think we need to make such a big deal out of it. It ended up being a very simple decision for us, because my children enrolled in the school their father [writer-director Bart Freundlich] went to. He was born and raised in New York. I went to public schools all over the U.S. and had a very uneven education, and I always say I turned out fine [Laughs]. Yes, I'd rather have had the education my children are getting, but you know, I still managed to adapt.

As an artist ambassador for Save the Children, you're clearly passionate about improving our public schools. In fact, all the proceeds from Freckleface Strawberry's opening night will benefit the nonprofit organization. Have you seen the new documentary Waiting for Superman, about our country's flagging public-school system?
Not yet. But you know, like I said, I grew up getting a very uneven education in the public-school system. That's why I work with Save the Children. In this country, we have this idea that everyone's entitled to the same education. But that's a fallacy because you really only receive an education depending on how rich your county is. If you live in a county where there are a lot of tax dollars, the public schools will be great, but if you live in a poor county, the schools will be terrible. Save the Children's U.S. program goes into these impoverished school districts and helps preschool, after-school and literacy programs—they pump them up with private dollars. It's unfortunate but it's necessary. We have a really uneven public-education system in the United States and it's something that's incredibly distressing. You see it in New York, in rural areas, in any places where the tax dollars aren't coming in.

Was it a tough adjustment for you when your son entered middle school?
Caleb's starting to be much more independent. I remember asking other mothers, "What do you do? When do you let them ride the bus? When do you let them go places by themselves?" And they were like, "You'll know." He's at a point now where he can do a lot of things on his own. He has to text me when he goes places; he can take the bus with friends; he has a MetroCard, and he can get pizza after school, that kind of stuff. It's a completely different stage, obviously, but it's been really interesting, and surprisingly smooth, so far.

Has growing up in the city helped shape your kids?
Of course. I've always found that I like people who were raised in the city—like my husband. I feel that they're incredibly worldly, really empathetic, interested in people and able to engage. My son is particularly mature because he's been so many places and met lots of people and been exposed to many different things. Over the years, when I've asked, "Would you like to live in the country?," my kids have said "No, we're city kids!" They really like it here.

I believe you try to stay in NYC during the school year. Do you have any local projects coming up?
No. I wish I had a job in the city but I don't [Laughs]. It's always great to shoot here, like when I was doing Far from Heaven and The Forgotten and 30 Rock. My husband has shot several movies here. There's absolutely nothing better than shooting in New York City. I love it so much.

is playing at New World Stages. Tickets: $39-$68.50.


 

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