Like mother, like daughter. Like other daughter.
That’s the way the old saying goes for the family of Angela Tower Walker. Angela was Miss Alabama 1986 and came close to winning Miss America.
Now, three decades later, Angela has her eyes on two competitions this week: Saturday night’s Miss Alabama Pageant, in which daughter Callie is trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps; and Sunday’s Tony Awards, in which daughter Scarlett, making her Broadway debut in “Carousel,” just may see her show take home theater’s top award for Best Revival of a Musical.
“I’m super proud of them, obviously,” says Angela, whose trek to the Miss Alabama crown started when she was a freshman at Birmingham-Southern College and was invited to enter a preliminary.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “But I ended up winning the pageant and going on to the Miss Alabama Pageant in 1978. I was quite clueless when I was competing, and I was second runner-up. I was completely surprised.”
That first year piqued Angela’s interest, so she continued to compete both in Texas (she’s a native Texan) and in Alabama. She was first runner-up to Miss Alabama Tammy Little in 1984, and in 1985, she won the title, becoming Miss Alabama 1986.
“I thoroughly enjoyed being on the road and making appearances as Miss Alabama, and competing in Miss America was very exciting,” she says. After the national pageant, where she finished as fourth runner-up, Angela went to see David Letterman’s late-night show in New York, and she appeared in a small segment with him.
After her reign as Miss Alabama, Angela owned a dance studio in Birmingham for a number of years and has been teaching ballet and coaching other contestants for more than 30 years.
She married Mike Walker in 1993, and they have three children: Scarlett, 23; and twins Callie and Michael, 20.
Angela’s two daughters, both singers and dancers, followed her into the pageant system.
Scarlett won both Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen (in 2010) and Alabama’s Distinguished Young Woman (in 2012), finishing as first runner-up nationally in both programs. She had appeared early on in a production of “Annie,” but after her pageant years, she left performing behind to study broadcast journalism.
“My mom knew I was lost without the arts,” Scarlett recalls. “She said, ‘You know, I really think you would be good at theater.’ … That conversation changed my life forever.”
Scarlett became a musical theater major at the University of Alabama and appeared in productions of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “42nd Street,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Little Shop of Horrors” in Tuscaloosa. In Birmingham, she appeared in Red Mountain Theatre Company’s “Les Miserables” and “La Cage Aux Folles.”
In 2016, Scarlett made the move to New York. “I knew this was where I had to be to fulfill my dream,” she says.
She worked at a couple of respected regional theaters, and then, in July of last year, she auditioned for the Broadway revival of “Carousel.”
Her mom got the news, fittingly, on the dance floor, where she was teaching a ballet class.
“She called from the subway and asked if I was on speaker phone,” Angela recalls. “She announced to me and my students that she was going to be on Broadway.”
Scarlett had been cast in the ensemble of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, and she also was understudying the major role of Carrie Pipperidge, best friend to Julie Jordan, the heroine.
“Opening night was a ‘dream come true’ moment for me,” Scarlett says. “My parents were there, and the atmosphere in the theater was unreal.”
But there was more to come.
On May 27, two hours before curtain, Scarlett found out she was going on as Carrie Pipperidge.
“Those were the fastest two hours of my life,” Scarlett says. “I was nervous, elated, focused, overjoyed, grateful and very, very calm. … One of the greatest honors of the day was making my Broadway principle debut while holding the hand of one of my idols, Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller. … Also, singing one of my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, ‘Mister Snow,’ on a Broadway stage with a 25-piece orchestra is the stuff dreams are made of.”
Following in Mom’s, sister’s footsteps
Scarlett plans to watch Sunday’s Tony Awards at a cast member’s watch party, but she’ll be rooting for sister Callie on Saturday night.
While Scarlett was honing her theater skills, Callie, too, was making a name for herself on stage.
She was crowned Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen in 2012, and in 2015 began competing in the Miss Alabama Pageant. She is believed to be the first daughter of a former winner to compete.
The past two years, she has been first runner-up to Miss Alabama, and she’s ready to win.
“I truly want to be the next Miss Alabama,” she says. “I have competed for four years in this organization, and I have never felt more ready or prepared to travel this state and promote the Miss America Organization and its empowerment of women.”
She, like Scarlett, is studying musical theater at the University of Alabama, appearing in shows such as “A Chorus Line” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
“I am looking to follow in my sister’s footsteps,” Callie says. “Seeing her journey with ‘Carousel,’ I have already seen that a career on Broadway is not easy. It takes hard work and dedication.”
Hard work and dedication – and a love for music — are not lacking in the Walker family.
“It’s kind of not surprising to see the trajectories they’ve taken,” Angela says, adding that son, Michael, is also in the arts, as an aspiring choral director. “My husband is a big music fan, and when they were little and he was toting them around in the car, he’d play music, and it was anything from Elvis to John Denver to Barbra Streisand. You name it, Mike exposed them to it.
“It has been rewarding seeing their drive and determination and see them reach their goals,” Angela adds.