When 11-year-old Bailey Dumlao sang with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra during its December holiday concert, an appreciative ripple ran through the audience. His touching solo, delivered in a sweet, high soprano, was strong and confident. Moments later, he sang a duet with actress Ashley Brown, who plays Mary Poppins in the Broadway play, sounding just as polished as the 20-something veteran. What the audience never knew was that this was their first performance together.
Poor weather delayed Brown’s plane, effectively eliminating their rehearsal time. And Bailey only got to sing with the orchestra three times before the show. No matter. He was still able to deliver a pitch-perfect performance.
In fact, it’s not the first time Bailey debuted with so little prep time. Born a preemie at 27 weeks, he started life on a tenuous note. Doctors told parents Kristina and Perry Dumlao that their son, weighing just two pounds, had only a 50 percent chance of surviving. As a newborn, he remained on a ventilator for several weeks, then had an apnea monitor for the first year of life. Yet despite these early problems, he grew stronger and thrived. Now the Germantown Elementary School fifth-grader squeezes in a laundry list of activities each day, making the most of every opportunity that comes his way.
But it is onstage adventures that hold the most appeal. “I can be different when I’m on stage instead of just being me,” he says. In the past year, he’s played a Lost Boy in the cast of Peter Pan at Playhouse on the Square, a village youth in The Secret Garden at Poplar Pike Playhouse, and sung in the Kid’s Kabaret at the Harrell Theatre in Collierville.
Bailey caught the acting bug in kindergarten, when he played one of the Royal Children in The King and I at DeSoto Family Theatre. After performing ensemble roles in two productions of A Christmas Carol at Theatre Memphis, he hung up his soccer shoes. “I have gone from being a sporty kid to a creative kid with a knack for theatre,” he says.
He studies voice with Cindy Barrett at Performing Arts of Germantown Studio and sings with five other boys in the group The Hot Shots. He also participates in his school chorus.
Jenny Compton, a librarian with Memphis Symphony Orchestra, was the one who first heard Bailey sing. Impressed, she wondered if a spot could be created for him in the Home for the Holidays concert. Compton arranged for an audition and Bailey wowed the judges. He was added to a lineup that included the Memphis Symphony Chorus and University of Memphis Concert Singers.
Singing alongside Ashley Brown was a thrill for Bailey. The experience bolstered his confidence, prompting him to perform a solo from Mamma Mia! in Kid’s Kabaret. Although it was his first dance role, Bailey was promoted from ensemble to alternate lead jazz dancer in the program. He credits his experience saying, “I’ve learned a lot at Playhouse on the Square, the Poplar Pike Playhouse, and the Harrell Theatre.”
To date, his favorite role is the Lost Boy twin from Peter Pan. “The twin has his brother, and they look after each other. They might get into trouble together, but they help each other out,” he says.
His various roles have also helped him feel at ease with the Germantown High School students cast in The Secret Garden. “They don’t fool around as much as younger kids,” he says with a grin. “I always practice as if I’m performing.” That drive propels him through late-night rehearsals and helps him balance school work with his other commitments.
When not acting, reading is a favorite pastime. And that has paid off, too. As a fourth- and fifth- grader, Bailey won the annual spelling bee at his elementary school. This year, he is president of the school’s Kiwanis Kids service club, planning projects such as Valentines for Veterans.
While he’s the first actor-singer in his immediate family, his great-great aunt Marion Keisker worked at Sun Studio and was the first female radio personality in Memphis. He has two younger siblings, 7-year-old Hannah Grace and 9-year-old brother, Aiden. His big brother Chad is 18.Each time on stage moves him closer to his dream: to perform on Broadway. He seems to have the right stuff. Bailey has performed “cold” with no rehearsal time, sung with a Broadway star before an audience of 2,100, and doesn’t goof off during rehearsal. Local audiences have a front-row seat as this youngster pursues his dream.