How did a budding rock star and an aspiring concert pianist wind up meeting, marrying, working on Broadway, and living in Westchester with their two children?
Meet Charles and Annbritt duChateau, two amazing artists who have carved out a life that while enviable to many others, according to them seems to have just fallen into place. When asked if she grew up dreaming of being on Broadway Annbritt laughs. “Absolutely not,” she trills. Charles concurs, “We’ve been lucky.” Perhaps, but we know that’s not the whole story. There was a lot of hard work behind the opportunities that they have embraced.
Charles is a composer, arranger, cellist, pianist, and conductor who has worked on Broadway with shows such as The Color Purple, South Pacific, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, Oklahoma! and Fiddler on the Roof. This seasoned Broadway musician is also now the orchestra strings teacher for the middle-high school in the Tuckahoe School District, and the founder of the Catalyst Youth Orchestra.
Annbritt is currently the associate music director and supervisor of Frozen worldwide as well as the associate music director of Aladdin worldwide. And did we mention she sometimes conducts and plays keyboards for Frozen on Broadway? She points out that she wasn’t always a Disney gal. She’s worked on many other Broadway shows including The Threepenny Opera, Pal Joey, and Billy Elliot: The Musical. She’s also worked on the California production of Into the Woods and worked with the New York Philharmonic in their Company gala concert.
Charles and Annbritt took up music at an early age. Charles defines himself as a “rock star that hasn’t given up the dream.” It was a bit of a surprise to this Colorado-raised guy that he put down his guitar and, influenced by his high school orchestra teacher, picked up the cello. More surprises, he ultimately received a full scholarship for cello to the University of Northern Colorado.
In Chicago Annbritt grew up playing the piano and in fifth grade also took up the French horn. She studied both instruments at Chicago’s DePaul University. She earned her undergraduate degree, her Masters and was well on her way to completing her PhD.
This is where fate turns for them. Charles found work as a musician with the national tour of Les Misérables, a stint he loved and enjoyed for 10 years.
Annbritt was asked to play in an Andrew Lloyd Webber show Aspects of Love, famous for the song, “Love Changes Everything.” When a conductor left the national tour she was tagged and went on the road — and loved it!
Their paths crossed when, as Charles says, “She was my boss.” Annbritt explains that she was serving as musical director on a “dream tour” of Miss Saigon – the show stayed in each city for an extended time so she could take along her car and cats. When a Miss Saigon job opportunity came up some friends who were working on Les Misérables told her Charles would be perfect for her. “They meant he would be perfect for the show,” she says. He wound up being perfect for her too.
City or country
The couple married in 2001 and eventually found their way to New York City and the Broadway musical scene. A chance sublet took them into Westchester County. Charles says he “was never a Manhattan guy.” He prefers the quieter, cooler air in Westchester. Although he loves to go into the city he says he breathes easier in Westchester. Annbritt agrees. She says she appreciates the great school systems in Westchester, how easy it is to get into the city, and how much the arts are embraced here.
It was here that they decided to raise their sons, Julien and Fabien, now age 17 and 14 respectively. When the kids were younger Charles says they enjoyed all the family-friendly Hudson Valley activities like The Blaze.
Charles loves to cook. “I’ll never brag about my musicianship, but I will brag about my cooking,” he jests. His flexible work schedule allows him to do things other dads with traditional work hours might not be able to do. At his son’s urging Charles volunteered to teach an after-school cooking class. Word got out that he was teaching and before he knew it the school system had tagged him. As an example of just how cool the guy is – his son is his student and it’s fine! He credits the school system for being supportive of his at times double life.
“We’ve had the good luck that when one person started a new show the other’s show closed,” explains Charles. When the boys were in preschool and first grade Annbritt was asked to conduct the national tour of Mary Poppins. She thought they couldn’t possibly make it work, but with Charles’s encouragement, they did. Annbritt says parenthood is all about partnership and juggling. “My husband isn’t normal.” she jokes. “He whips up a gourmet meal and is a neat freak. He’s so beloved and adored it’s almost irritating.”
That doesn’t mean they don’t need the help of others to pull off this parenting gig. Annbritt was in California with Into the Woods starring Vanessa Williams when she found out she was pregnant with their first child. She was going to be there for three months and had no doctors, no experience, and no musician coworkers with experience in such things either. “Charles said you have to talk to Vanessa Williams — she’s a mother. And I’m thinking what? I can’t just go talk to Vanessa Williams!” But she did. “She is the nicest person in the world, she’s a great mom and is so grounded. She hooked me up with her doctors — she saved me,” says Annbritt.
As the boys grew up there were other helpers. “We’ve had wonderful, devoted people help us with childcare,” says Charles. He recalls the boys when they were little standing with their caregiver shouting, “Go Daddy, go” as he ran for the Metro-North train.” When the boys were older Annbritt says Matt, a nephew of one of their friends, was fantastic with the boys.
Of course, working at night and traveling means as parents they miss some things. “Weekends, when you have to miss the soccer game, can be tough,” says Charles. “We have to consciously make time for family, and we do,” says Annbritt, who also credits her kids’ ability to go with the flow as paramount. “When the boys were younger, people would ask me if I miss putting the boys to bed — no! And it’s perfectly fine to say that. We spend plenty of time together and that’s what is important.” The hands on a clock don’t decide what love looks or feels like. What’s very clear is the joy they both find in their children, in their careers, and in their life.