Liam Pearce and Madison Kopec Build Momentum for Autistic Actors | Young Entertainment Exclusive

It’s so amazing how How to Dance in Ohio is a true story. It’s almost like High School Musical except the kids are way cooler because they can sing and dance AND they have autism. How cool is that?!” The musical follows seven high school students preparing for a spring formal dance. There’s all these twists and turns that make for an iconic story that must go down in Broadway history. There’s first dates, cosplay, prepping for a driver’s test, and dreaming of getting out of high school. The Broadway musical opened at the Belasco Theatre in New York City in December 2023.

Take a look at this exclusive interview with Liam Pearce and Madison Kopec, who play Drew and Marideth in this true High School Musical. They were so excited to FaceTime with us about their Broadway debut —NBD!— and how the show shines a human and joyful light on those with autism. 

Did you know that autism is considered a non-visible disability? And that every autistic person experiences autism differently? Just like no snowflake is exactly alike! The cast of HTDIO includes actors who identify as autistic, neurodivergent, and neurotypical. The combination of these identities is what makes the cast neurodiverse. And we are here for it!

The musical is based on the 2015 HBO documentary film of the same name which explores the universal need to connect with others and the courage it takes to step out on one’s own in the world. It follows seven autistic young adults navigating change and preparing for a spring formal dance. 

Liam: “Something I’ve learned since doing this show is just how affirmed I’ve felt being surrounded by other autistic people and the ways that we all learn and rehearse and do this process together.”

Liam recognizes the stigmas that might exist about autistic people in theater, but he belives this show debunks those ideas with the work they have put into the show for the past two-and-half years. He said the coolest thing is being able to see young kids with autism come up to him after the show and share their stories. Madison has learned things in theater come with practice and quoted Hannah Montana, saying, “Nobody is perfect.”

The musical is staged at the iconic Belasco Theatre, which has seen talents like Neil Patrick Harris and Denzel Washington take the stage. For Madison, she saw her first Broadway show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, at the Belasco years ago and said it was surreal to now be performing there. When she is on stage today, she looks up to the very seat she sat in all those years ago. We get chills thinking about it! So cool!

Madison: “For autistic people, getting into theater, everything does come with practice. “It come down to giving yourself grace, because you are not going to be perfect on the first try.”

Thank you, Liam and Madison, for your time and for FaceTiming with Young Entertainment! Make sure to follow them on their Instagram’s at @liam.pearce and @madison.kopec. Please also watch the interview, where we ask them more questions about the audition process, their character’s playlists, their favorite Broadway shows, and watch till the end for a fun little game. While you’re there, be sure to like, comment, and subscribe to our channel for the latest news in young entertainment!

Consider this: 

  • There is a community for you in the arts. Surround yourself with others who share the same interests. You can also use the Internet and social media to help you find that community.