‘Hadestown’ star reunites with kindergarten teacher living at LI

Although it’s 33 years since he went to kindergarten at Little Red School House in Manhattan, Reeve Carney is not too old to still be the teacher’s pet.

The actor, who plays Orpheus in the Broadway smash “Hadestown,” invited his former teacher, Cleo Banks, now 92 and living on Long Island, to attend Sunday’s matinee performance. The reunion continued afterwards with dinner at Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan, which was also attended by Carney’s mother and his co-star Eva Noblezada. In between the courses, he reviewed the pictures that Carney had taken with her from her days at the liberal arts school.

“It was a wonderful day,” said Banks, adding: “I loved the show. He did all the things he had to do in a very nice way.”

Carney even arranged a car service and had his mother pick up Banks from her home. He and Noblezada drove home with Banks after dinner.

For Carney, 38, it was a chance to pay back to the woman who helped inspire him to overcome his fearfulness and explore his imagination.

“I remember she called my mother into the classroom at the first parent meeting and said, ‘The only problem with your son is that he’s too polite.’ And that’s true. I would go to a group of children and ask, ‘May I play with you, please?’ and they would say no, “Carney said.

That criticism inspired Carney’s mother to enroll him in an improv acting class in Manhattan’s SoHo district. “It really helped me become less shy and more confident in certain ways.”

Carney was particularly eager to reconnect with Banks after his grandmother, who was roughly the same as Banks, died last year and “never got to see me on the show,” he said.

After contacting Little Red School House, Carney’s mother found Banks. Carney then called her and invited her to the show.

“It was a little surprising, but it was very nice,” Banks said.

And even though she did not immediately recognize her student, whom she had not seen since he was a tot, he had no trouble remembering his old teacher back.

“Her hair color changed, but otherwise she looked exactly the same,” Carney said. “She was so incredibly warm. It was like hanging out with an old friend or family member.”

And they should probably do it again. At the end of the evening, Banks asked, “So when are we going to go out to eat again?”


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