Tiny Tim role marks a new stage for 9-year-old actor
Scott Calcagno was in a bind.
He was preparing to direct Drury Lane Oak Brook's "A Christmas Carol" and he found himself one Tiny Tim short.
"I had nobody," said the director, who had a youngster in mind, but needed a second because the role is double cast.
As auditions drew to a close, prospects looked dim for finding another Tim.
Then Nicky Amato walked in.
The last boy to audition that day, the 9-year-old from Elk Grove Village looked Calcagno in the eye, performed his monologue and won the role.
"I feel really excited to be given this chance," Amato said. "I just can't wait to put on the show for the audience."
Nerves sometimes make young actors shy or rambunctious, said Calcagno, but not Nicky, who bested 40 other hopefuls to win the role he shares with Shane Frantz.
"He was funny and engaging. He totally won me over," said Calcagno.
During callbacks, Amato hung on Calcagno's every word, which he considers a sign the actor is prepared to listen and do his job. But what struck the director was how much of a regular boy Amato is, which is precisely what Calcagno wanted Tiny Tim to be in this family-friendly production that remains faithful (in a slightly abbreviated form) to Charles Dickens' tale.
"I want to make the show as whimsical and fun as possible without playing down to the audience and while staying true to Dickens' story," he said.
Geared toward children, Drury Lane's "A Christmas Carol" is a bit lighter than other versions, with an Ebenezer Scrooge who comes across as more sarcastic than malevolent. It marks the professional debut of Amato, who took up acting two years ago after watching his sister Ashley perform. He got his start playing a baby kangaroo in Schaumburg on Stage's "Seussical the Musical." Since then he's appeared in the company's productions of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
Dreamcoat," "High School Musical 2" and "The Wedding Singer."
"It's so very exciting to work with actors that age," said Calcagno. "They're energetic and open to learning."
The biggest challenge involves working around their busy schedules, said Calcagno. For Amato that includes sports, family and the fourth grade.
"Schoolwork comes first," said the Nerge Elementary School student, who does homework during rehearsal breaks and in the car on the way to the theater.
Amato won't get much of a break after "A Christmas Carol" closes. Early next year he'll play a street kid in SOS's "Annie," in which his sister plays one of the orphans. After taking on a leading role, Amato's more than happy to return to the ensemble.
"I don't care if I get a big role or any role. I enjoy being in the play," he said.
Drury Lane Oak Brook's family-friendly "A Christmas Carol" runs about 60 minutes. Performances continue through Saturday, Dec. 18, at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. (630) 530-0111 or drurylaneoakbrook.com.