Taking your 7-year-old to see "Cabaret" on Broadway may not seem like the ideal parenting move.
"Worst. Mother. Ever," said Amy Anderson, whose daughter Aubrey Anderson-Emmons plays the scene-stealing Lily on "Modern Family" and thumb-wrestled the musical's star, Alan Cumming, after the show.
The self-insult doesn't quite fit.
On stage, the two seemed perfectly in sync last weekend as they rehearsed "Together Wherever We Go" for an Illusion Theater fundraiser in downtown Minneapolis — an ironic choice considering the song, from the musical "Gypsy," is a duet between an obsessed stage mother and her put-upon child.
But Anderson seems committed to making sure her child doesn't get too star-struck.
"Every night, I sit next to her bed and whisper, 'You're not that special' — just to balance things out," Anderson joked as her daughter played with her right ear, hair, chin and sweater straps during a joint interview in the theater's green room.
Anderson, who grew up in the Twin Cities before moving to Los Angeles in 2001, cites the Illusion as a major influence on her career as a stand-up comedian and actress.
Her daughter had very little experience before auditioning for the role of Mitchell and Cameron's adopted daughter on the ABC sitcom, which has won the Emmy for best comedy five years in a row.
" 'You're not going to get it,' I told her over and over," Anderson said. " 'They're going to see lots of little girls, and they are only going to pick one.' "
Spending an afternoon with Anderson-Emmons, who took over the part three years ago, you can see why she stood out. In addition to her skills on stage, she's animated, personable and refreshingly honest in person.
When asked if she ever watches "Modern Family" at home, she nods vigorously.
"I always fast-forward to my part," she said from the couch as her feet danced in the air.
She has every reason to be proud. Her role as a mini-diva has created some of the show's biggest laughs, as she continually deflates the egos of her uptight parents.
Her crowning moment: a special film created for the 2012 Emmys in which she plays an off-screen monster, removing stairs from co-stars' trailers, a prank she was more than willing to re-create during the interview.
Her real-life mother said she was initially wary of allowing her child to be in the public eye, but eventually got over her fear. She cites the success of upcoming Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris, who first got noticed as TV teen doctor Doogie Howser, and "Wonder Years" star Fred Savage, who has directed five episodes of "Modern Family."
"I think the kids on TV who turn out with problems are more the exception than the rule," she said. "I think there are as many messed-up kids who are going to high school and playing football, but nobody wants to read about them because they don't know who they are."
In the meantime, Anderson-Emmons seems to relish the spotlight while also preserving some private time for herself. She proudly announces that she had the biggest role in her community theater's production of "Seussical Jr." but says she isn't a big fan of posing for pictures with strangers.
As for her future plans, she's not sure if she wants to be an actress — although she covets the role of "Cabaret's" Sally Bowles.
Don't bet against her.
Neal Justin • 612-673-7431
SEE A VIDEO
of Aubrey Anderson-Emmons and her mom rehearsing their duet at startribune.com/tv.