Lulu the Broadway Mouse: The Show Must Go On


By Jenna Gavigan

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Lulu’s show has just received its closing notice. Lulu and the rest of the company are devastated. Lulu takes readers back in time to just after she made her onstage debut and of Lulu and Jayne rising in popularity and esteem. However, there is one critic who is determined to break Lulu’s career. With additional casting drama happening with Jayne, Amanda, and new girl Olivia, the news about the show closing comes as a real blow to everyone. When Benji, Lulu’s brother, comes up with an idea on how to boost ticket sales, the company members hit the streets, desperate to save the show from closing. But will Lulu and Stella be able to stop the nasty critic from completely ruining Lulu’s dreams and those of the rest of the cast?



I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU, DEAR READER. FAIR warning: I might (definitely) cry.

Our show is closing.

I just…

I guess I should do as Fraulein Maria advises and “start at the very beginning” so you can understand how we got here. (Once you understand how we got here, if you wouldn’t mind explaining it to me, that’d be fab.)

It makes sense that the beginning of this story would pick up where the last one left off, right? (If you just answered, “Of course right!” bravo to you, tiny Yente.) So, although it is currently spring and my fellow cast members have been donning sockless shoes and jean jackets to match the warm breeze blowing through Shubert Alley, let’s rewind to the depths of winter, puffy coats, snow boots, and blustery winds, aka a few days after my Broadway debut. Back to when my heart was bursting with joy, pride, exaltation… I could continue to list other applicable emotions, but we’d be here all day.

Okay. Here goes everything.








EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!” TIMMY HOLLERS. At least I think that’s what he’s hollering. His speech is mumbled because he and my other three hooligan brothers each have their mouths wrapped around a corner of this weekend’s massive Arts section of the Times, and they’re slowly maneuvering it into our house, like they’re crew guys moving a cumbersome set piece. Speaking of crew guys, it was Dan and Artie who arrived at work this morning with easily fifty copies of the paper—enough for everyone in the building. They tried to get a copy downstairs to me, but the Hooligans intercepted it. Apparently, Benji said, “We’ll take it from here, you clever gentlemen.” (In other news, Benji has stopped talking like a cowboy and started talking like a fictional English butler.) Sure, it would have been easier to have a human carry the hefty newspaper downstairs, but my brothers wouldn’t hear of it. If I could make it to Broadway, they could certainly handle weekend Times transportation.

“Put it down over here, boys, where we can all see it,” my mother instructs.

The Hooligans plop the paper down, and my mom smooths it out with her tail. (Five bucks says later she’ll ask Bet to iron it before asking one of the carpenters to frame it.)

“May I do the honors?” Timmy asks.

“You are our resident newspaper aficionado,” I say.

Timmy clears his throat, then reads, “Shubert Theatre Makes History with Lulu the Broadway Mouse.” Right below the headline is a huge photograph of me in Jayne’s palm during Act Two, both of us with our left legs in a high kick. After the show, we found out that our sound guy, Randall, who dabbles in photography, went to the back of the house during Act Two to make sure our debuts were documented. The Times bought a bunch of photos from him and now Randall can take that trip to Hawaii he’s been dreaming about.

“Wow,” Walt says. “That’s some headline, Lu.”

“The front page of the Arts section,” my dad says. “My little girl.”

“Everyone told you it wasn’t possible,” my mother says. “Even me. I’m so glad you didn’t listen, Lucy Louise.”

“Me too, Mom,” I say.

Cut to Benji the Brit “not crying!” beside me.

“Keep reading, bro,” Matty says.

The seven of us curl up around the newspaper, and each other, as Timmy continues to read.

On Tuesday evening, toward the end of the first act, a tiny mouse named Lulu made a surprise appearance onstage at the Shubert. By the curtain call, that tiny mouse had become a big star…



YOU COULDN’T BUY A BETTER HEADLINE!” JODIE Howard proclaims. “And believe me, I’ve tried.” She pulls her sand-colored wig cap over her pin-curled noggin, then turns to me and H.H., suddenly serious as all get-out. “I’m kidding, of course. I would never buy a headline.”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” I say.

“This is the kind of article an actor dreams of, Tiny,” Heather Huffman says. “Are you happy with it?”

“Of course,” I say. “I mean, it’s great for me, but it’s great for everyone else, too, right?”

“ABSOLUTELY!” Jodie shouts. “Free publicity is the best publicity!” She dots concealer under her eyes and begins blending with her purple makeup sponge. “We’re sold out for both shows today! You’ve made us a hit again, darling.”

“If you had any use for money, I’d say it were time for a raise,” H.H. says in that matter-of-fact way she does. “Perhaps there’s something else we can negotiate for you? A weekly cheese platter delivery? A cushy new bed? A larger assortment of ribbon scarves?”

“Is it ridiculous to say being allowed to perform is payment enough?” I ask.

The looks on H.H.’s and Jodie’s faces confirm that, yes, it is ridiculous, and I realize that me declaring out loud that I don’t feel the need to be compensated for my hard work is basically pooh-poohing the strides made by generations of human women. If I’m going to blaze a trail for future generations of thespian mice, I’d better make it clear I know my worth.

“I’ll ask for the cheese platter,” I say.

“Good,” H.H. says, retrieving a brand-new eyeliner—Cup O’ Cappuccino—from a reusable Duane Reade tote. “Whatever the ask, if I know one thing for sure, it’s that producers never get rid of their cash cow. Or their cash mouse, in this case.” She lets out a fluttery laugh. “I think it’s safe to say your job is secure, Tiny. Now. Are you sure you’re still up for our preshow routine? I’d understand if you need to get up to the third floor and prepare for your own show.”

“I will never give up our preshow routine,” I say. “You’re stuck with me.”

“All right then,” H.H. says. “My eyelash, please.”

I scoot across their dressing room counter; my speed is slowed a bit by H.H.’s scratchy new bamboo place mat—aka her “much-needed touch of Zen.” I knock the cover off the lash container, pick up her left lash, and stride it over to her. Just like I’ve done for three hundred fifty-two performances, just like I’ll do for many, many more.

“Not to gossip,” Jodie Howard whispers loudly, “but… I am surprised that with Amanda back from her sickbed she hasn’t made a fuss about you being her new costar.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything, but now that you’ve said something, yes. It is incredibly surprising,” H.H. replies.

“Life’s surprising,” I say.

“Indeed, it is,” H.H. says, eyeing me suspiciously before closing her left lid to apply its lash.

Just between us, dear reader, my third-floor dressing room mates and I decided it was best not to broadcast our unanimous decision to turn over a new leaf and get along. We didn’t want anyone else’s opinions to influence things, you know? Believe me, it’s tough for me not to divulge every detail to H.H. But Amanda’s confession about why she acted the way she did, and my realization about how we all could have treated her better? We think it’s best we keep those experiences between the four of us: me, Milly, Amanda, and Jayne. The hope is the rest of the company will sense our fresh start, without us having to explicitly state “We’re going to get along now!” and that jolt of positivity will brighten up our backstage like a fresh coat of paint.

“In other news, I will be missing two performances next week to shoot a television pilot. Guest star. Possible recurring. I’m thrilled.”

Bless Jodie Howard for her ability to steer the conversation back to her and away from topics that make me feel like I’m lying to my best H.H.

“Which one?” H.H. asks. “The one about the family who owns the bookstore?”

“No,” Jodie says. “No, I was deemed ‘too wise’ for that one.” She rolls her eyes and snorts some saline nasal spray. “That’s show biz speak for ‘too old,’ Lulu.”

“Got it,” I say. I got it before she told me but would never have said it out loud. I mean, how could someone be “too wise” to own a bookstore? Honestly.

“The one about the Nantucket cop who solves crimes with the chef of his local seafood restaurant?” H.H. asks. How she made it through that description without laughing, I’ll never know.

“They said I ‘wasn’t believable’ as someone who ‘shucks oysters,’” Jodie says, decorating the statement with her signature air quotes. “No, I booked Apartment. Half-hour comedy. Single camera. Very Downton Abbey but set on the Upper West Side in a prewar co-op.” (FYI, “booked” is show biz speak for getting the part.)

“Sounds fun,” H.H. says. And, yes, I do sense a hint of envy that she’s doing her best to repress. The gal’s only human, ya know?

“Fifteen Minutes, this is your Fifteen-Minute call. Fifteen Minutes, please,” Pete’s voice pipes through the monitor.

“Congrats on your guest star, possible recurring, Jodie!” I say. “H.H. and I will miss you next week.”

“Yes, Lisa is lovely in your role—” H.H. starts.

“I hope not too lovely,” Jodie panics.

“—but she’s not you, my friend. You are one of a kind. And speaking of one of a kind, Tiny, you’d better head upstairs and get ready. We’ll see you at the over-ture dance.”

“See you in fifteen!” I say. But before I go, I whisper into her ear, “You’ll book a television role soon, H.H. I just know it.”

She pats me on the head and says, “From your lips to Casting’s ears, Tiny.”

And then, faster than you can say “There’s no business like show business,” I’m off. Down the leg of their dressing room table, out the door to the second-floor hallway, and up the stairs to the third floor and my dressing room. Our dressing room. Amanda’s, Jayne’s, Milly’s, and mine.

What’s that you say? Do you have your own name plaque on the door yet, Lulu? Well, right now all I have is a piece of printer paper Milly fashioned into a name plaque. Pete did put a place for me to sign in on the call board, though! Rosa rubs a marker on my foot and then holds me up so I can use my foot as a stamp.

Once it’s decided that this part is mine for good, I’m sure Pete will turn the printer paper hanging on our dressing room door into an official name plaque faster than you can say “Please come back to Broadway, Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth.”

Oh yes, I forgot to mention. Technically, I’m still an understudy. Despite what H.H. said about the producers never getting rid of their cash cow-mouse, despite making the cover of the Arts section of the Times, despite five stellar performances, this role isn’t technically mine until the producers say it is.

This might be a show, but it’s also a business.




I’ll hold so you can pick your jaw up off the floor.

“No, I’m good,” I say. “But thanks for asking.”

“Of course,” Amanda says. “I want you to feel included.”

I look at Jayne and Jayne looks at Milly and Milly just smiles with contented relief. Amanda’s trying a bit too hard to be nice, but over-the-top effort is definitely better than zero effort. It’s as if someone dialed her nice meter from one to one hundred and now the water’s boiling over in her pot and she needs to turn the heat down just a tiny bit so we can land on a rolling bubble and sorry for the mixed metaphor.

“Thanks,” I say. “Don’t worry. I do.”

“I was thinking with the weather as bad as it is, it might be fun to order in Chinese for in between shows,” Milly says. “Thoughts?”

“Yes, please!” Jayne says.

“I’m always in the mood for those crunchy noodles that come in the little bag,” I say. We mice love a crunchy food. Helps keep our teeth in good shape. The crunchier the better.

“Sure,” Amanda says. “I finally have my appetite back.”

“We’ll look at the menu during intermission,” Milly says, practically beaming from how easy that just was.

“Five Minutes, this is your Five-Minute call,” Pete’s voice commands. “Five Minutes, please.”

“Knock, knock,” Jeremiah says. “Ready for your wig, Amanda?”

“Of course,” she says with a smile. “Come on in.”

Jeremiah stands behind Amanda, positioning the wig directly over her head. She reaches up in front of her face, hooks her thumbs under the wig’s lace—REAL HUMAN HAIR is hand tied into a lace cap of sorts to form the wig—and Jeremiah glides the wig onto her head. He puts one pin in. A second. A third. Not a peep from Amanda. Until…

“Thanks so much, Jeremiah,” Amanda says. “I really appreciate it.”

“Sure thing,” Jeremiah says.

For the record, Amanda’s been this nice ever since she returned to the show on Wednesday evening, but I think everyone just assumed the good vibes would wear off faster than the food poisoning did. But so far, so good.

I was, of course, a bit worried about my first performance with Amanda. My first two shows were also Jayne’s first two shows, so our only experience performing our roles was with each other. But sharing the stage with Amanda is truly a delight. I doubt I would have felt the same a week ago; a week ago she probably would have twirled me into the orchestra pit. But now that we’re friends, things are just fabulous.

“I’ll see you after your first exit,” Jeremiah says. “Have a good show, ladies.”

“You too!” I say. I can’t tell you how incredible it feels to know that “Have a good show” truly applies to me, too.

“By the way, Lulu,” Jeremiah says, crouching down from his towering height so we’re closer to eye level, “that Times write-up was really something. So proud of you. You too, Jayne.”

“Thanks,” Jayne says quickly.

“What Times write-up?” Amanda asks.

Jeremiah’s eyes go wide and then shut as he emits a soft guhhhhh, like he just dropped his cell phone into a sewer grate.

“What Times write-up?” Amanda asks again.

“There’s a little article in the paper today about Lulu’s debut,” Milly says. “I just assumed you saw.” In truth, we weren’t sure whether Amanda had seen it or not, but Milly, Jayne, and I agreed that it was probably best not to bring it up. If Amanda brought it up, fine. But if she didn’t, we should forget to mention it. That isn’t lying, that’s just omitting. This doesn’t count as us ganging up on her, but I see how you might interpret it that way.

“No, I haven’t seen it,” Amanda says. “Do you have a copy?”

Had this scene played out a week ago, before we all turned over our new leaves, I’m sure Milly would have come up with some sort of excuse to not show the paper to Amanda. She’d have said, “You know you’re not allowed to touch newspapers when you’re in your vanilla velvet dress!” or something like that. But today’s a new day. So Milly says, “Sure. Here you go,” and hands a copy to Amanda.

Jeremiah lingers in the doorway, his head hung in terrified shame like a puppy who gnawed on a brand-new stiletto. Milly, Jayne, and I smile kindly at Amanda as she reads, though I’m certain we’re all mentally preparing for the temper tantrum of the century.

“Wow,” Amanda says.

Wow can mean anything, Team. Wow can mean anything.

“This…” she starts.

If need be, I can be out the door and to the safety of H.H.’s “much-needed moment of Zen” mat in under sixty seconds.

“Is…” she continues.

Maybe I should preemptively hit the road. Just in case.

“Really wonderful,” she says. “How great for you guys.”

We all breathe a sigh of relief so grand we practically blow the costumes off their hangers.

“Thanks, Amanda,” I say. “That means a lot.”

“Yeah,” Jayne says. “It really does.”

“I’ll read the rest later when we’re eating our Chinese food,” Amanda says.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure she’s upset. I’m certain. I’ve known this gal for almost a year. But feeling something is one thing. It’s how you respond to that feeling that makes the difference. And Amanda’s response is pure class. I’m proud of her. So proud I could whistle. (But I won’t. Because just in case you forgot: we never whistle in the theatre.)

“Places for the top of Act One,” Pete’s voice commands. “This is your Places call. Places, please.”

“Let’s get this show on the road,” Milly says.

And we’re off. Down the stairs to the stage for our overture dance. For my first Saturday matinee performance on Broadway. If this is a dream, please don’t wake me.




“With pleasure,” Milly says, handing Jayne the piping-hot container of deliciousness.

This is the between-shows feast to end all between-shows feasts. Soup dumplings, veggie chow mein, chicken with broccoli, crunchy noodles, scallion pancakes… yummy heaven. I’m actually super surprised the Hooligans haven’t—

“Good evening, one and all,” Benji the Brit declares.

I spoke too soon. Order food and my brothers shan’t be far behind.

“What’s in those dumplings?” Walt asks, scurrying over to Jayne.

“Soup,” she says, her mouth half full. “And pork.”

“Sign me up,” Walt says, cozying up to Jayne. Benji’s eyes go wide. Not because of how delicious the dumplings look (and smell), but because Walt had better back away from Benji’s crush faster than Michael Banks got sucked up his 17 Cherry Tree Lane chimney, or some mouse fur is going to fly.

“That’s a lot of crunchy noodles, Lu,” Matty says. “I can help you finish them if—”

“No help is needed, thank you very much,” I say. “Step away from the Chinese food and return from whence you came.”

“That’s just plain mean,” Walt says.

“You weren’t invited,” I say. “That’s just plain rude.”

“They’re welcome to join,” Amanda says. This, from the gal who threated to “call the exterminator!” when the show first moved into the building.

“No,” I say. “I mean, that’s really nice of you, Amanda, but they have plenty of food downstairs.”

“Speaking of downstairs,” Timmy says, momentarily refocusing his attention away from the crunchy broccoli stems. “Did you see what Pete posted on the call board?”

“No,” Jayne says. (P.S. Benji is next to her smiling politely like he’s one of Queen Elizabeth’s obedient corgis.) “Did someone call out for tonight’s show?”

“Call out” is Broadway slang for saying you’re not doing the show. So when someone has laryngitis or a pulled muscle or secretly booked a job on a commercial but Pete wouldn’t grant them a personal day, they “call out.” Calling out for a secret job is against union rules, by the way, and therefore highly unrecommended.


  • "Readers, especially young theater geeks who love backstage Broadway stories with all of their insider talk, will enjoy this sweet and charming story."—Booklist

On Sale
Mar 31, 2020
Page Count
272 pages
Running Press Kids

Jenna Gavigan

About the Author

Jenna Gavigan, a fourth generation New Yorker, grew up dreaming of Broadway. At age sixteen she made her Broadway debut in Gypsy, opposite Bernadette Peters. Since then she’s appeared in a half-dozen films, on more than a dozen television shows, and on east and west coast stages, most recently Off-Broadway in the world premiere of Straight. Jenna graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Creative Writing, where she focused on fiction, television, and screenwriting. She lives in a teeny tiny Manhattan apartment with her husband, Kevin.

Learn more about this author