NEW YORK (AP) — One had a leading part on Broadway. The other had her own star turn at Madison Square Garden. They recently joined forces for a cabaret show and now have a new CD.
They're a pair of show business veterans with one hard-to-swallow fact: Their combined age is 25.
Eleven-year-old Milly Shapiro and her 14-year-old sister Abigail, both talented singers and actresses, are proof that lightening can not only can strike twice — it can hit the same household.
Could this be genetic? Surely mom and dad were performers, too? Not at all. "Our parents aren't talented," Milly confesses. Abigail nods: "It kind of skipped a generation." Even mom agrees: "When they get asked that question, they usually laugh out loud," says Michelle Shapiro.
Milly was one of four girls playing the title role in the original Broadway cast of "Matilda the Musical" — earning an honorary Tony Award and a Grammy nomination — and her older sister played Cindy Lou Who in "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" at the Garden.
Between the two of them, they've appeared on "Live! with Kelly and Michael," ''The Wendy Williams Show," ''Fox and Friends" and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Abigail also sang the national anthem at a New York Knicks game, wearing a No. 6 jersey.
But they are no little divas. The girls, who grew up in Tampa, Florida, are unfailingly polite, bubbly and rocket between earnest and silly. They run three flights downstairs to open the door for a visitor and apologize for the lack of an elevator.
They share the same bedroom — usually. Milly, who sleeps in a trundle bed, often chooses to snooze with mom because her sister "is a crazy sleeper." ("Sometimes when she sleepwalks, she steps on my face," she says.)
The sisters teamed up this summer for a cabaret show at the swanky nightclub 54 Below and they recorded three performances for a new CD — "Live Out Loud: Live at 54 Below." It comes out Tuesday.
The 17 songs include "I Will Never Leave You" from "Side Show," ''Once Upon a December" from the film "Anastasia," ''The Girl I Mean to Be" from "The Secret Garden" and "I Know It's Today" from "Shrek."
No tween-led CD would be complete without "Let It Go" from "Frozen," but the girls didn't fight over who would tackle it. "I was like, 'Milly, you have to sing this song. It's perfect for you,'" says Abigail.
Milly needed some nudging: "It was very scary at first because I couldn't really sing all the notes, but I kept practicing and practicing, singing it over and over and over again. And eventually I just got it."
For all their talent and charisma, neither sister was spared being bullied growing up and that's why a portion of the CD's sales go to No Bully, a San Francisco-based group that works with schools to try to end harassment.
The sisters will be back at 54 Below in December to perform a cabaret version of "A Little Princess," with Abigail playing Sara Crewe ("my dream role," she says) and her sister as the narrator.
Both girls are blonde, stand 4-foot-6 and have resumes that include skills like "clown falls" and "stage combat." But there are differences: Milly has blue eyes while Abigail's are brown. Abigail is arguably the better dancer of the two.
Their careers really blew up during one weekend in September 2012 when they each auditioned for "Matilda" and "Grinch." Both were in the top 10 for each lead role and kept going back and forth for callbacks, almost giving mom a nervous breakdown.
In the end, Abigail was too tall for "Matilda" and the dancing in "Grinch" was too much for Milly. "Not my thing," says Milly. "That's her thing and I let it be her thing."
The future stretches out for both and they intend to seize it. Milly would like to be a fashion designer and go to Harvard to be a lawyer, while her older sis wants to be a TV director and a movie actress.
They've both learned the value of hard work despite their natural talent. "It takes a lot of practice," says Abigail. "When we started, we were nowhere near where we are right now. Both of us kept on practicing and practicing and practicing."
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits