When Emily Grace and Lacy Miller were 8 and 10 years old, they saw the Broadway show “Annie” on the Goldenrod Showboat in St. Charles, Mo., and were inspired.
The inspiration led them to produce a show on their parents’ driveway with 15 neighborhood kids under 12, and “Broadway on the Driveway” was born.
Things took off after that first show in 1995.
“We would hang bed sheets across the garage door and all of the neighbors would come see the show, and every summer it would just grow and grow. More and more people would come, and the news crews would come out too,” Lacy said.
Eventually the show got so big that the sisters got a visit from the police, who suggested that they move to other venues.
“They were nice, but they said it was time for us to move out of the driveway,” Lacy said. The St. Louis police officers came to visit their home after a call about a traffic jam.
In 1997, Gracie and Lacy formed a touring sister act, but continued the summer shows for another 18 years and packed local venues.
The sisters will bring their “Gracie & Lacy” show to Chancellor High School on Sunday as a fundraiser for Friends of Wilderness Battlefield.
The sisters have a family connection to Ellwood and Chatham manors, which makes them especially pleased to raise money for the group.
“We are the third-great-granddaughters of the Lacy family of Fredericksburg,” Gracie said of the family who owned the properties during the Civil War.
Gracie and Lacy work from a collection of songs dating from the 1920s through the 1960s known as the “Great American Songbook.”
The songs Gracie and Lacy will present Sunday will include jazz standards and classics from film and stage, ranging from Dean Martin to Irving Berlin with dancing and retro costumes designed by Lacy.
As sisters, Gracie said, they’re able to sing in the kind of harmony particular to family members.
“Our voices sound very similar,” Gracie said. “A lot of times as siblings, you get a vocal blend that’s a lot tighter than singing with somebody who’s not related to you, so the tight harmonies in our show are reflective of being siblings and the way that we patterned our vocal stylings after several of the tight harmony duos throughout the years.”
In keeping with the history of Chatham and Ellwood manors at the battlefield, Gracie said they’ll also perform some songs dating back to the 19th century.
“We’re going to touch a little bit on Civil War times and the 1800s music that encouraged people during and after the war,” Gracie said. “We’re going to tie in a little bit of history about how music from this era brought America through the war years and difficult time.”
One of the sisters’ ancestors, Beverly Tucker Lacy, was Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s personal chaplain and still figures into their lives.
“When Stonewall Jackson’s arm was amputated, Tucker Lacy took it back to Ellwood and gave it a proper burial,” Gracie said of the arm Jackson lost after The Battle of Chancellorsville. “That’s one of our go-to stories at parties. It’s such a wild story.”
The sisters recently learned another piece of family history they found interesting, Gracie said.
“The Lacy family, when they were raising money for causes, even back in the Civil War days, would put on variety shows. We just learned that, and it’s kind of neat that that tradition has carried throughout the generations,” said Gracie, who choreographs the shows.
The sisters, now based in Charleston, S.C., will also bring some additional local flavor to their performance when they include 8-year-old Leighton Carter.
“We can’t wait for the community to get to see him featured in the show,” Lacy said of Leighton, who lives with his family in Lake of the Woods.
Lori Landes–Carter said her son, who has been performing since he was 5, auditioned with a video and bested seven other entrants to win a spot on the show.
“He did Christian Youth Theater as part of his first classes, and they had a spring recital, and they did a segment of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ”she said of his first acting engagement.
Leighton said he’s looking forward to being in the show where he’ll sing Irving Berlin’s “Love and the Weather.”
“I have never been able to do something like this before. I’ve always wanted to,” Leighton said.
The Locust Grove Elementary School student also attends the Orange School of Performing Arts and will be in the school’s production of “Guys and Dolls” in May, Carter said.
“I’ll be the missionary and General Cartwright and a gambler,” said Leighton, who said he lives to be onstage.
“I love the theater,’” he said. “Performing makes me happy, and it just runs in my blood.”