WEIRTON - Weirton's Eli Tokash, a 6-year-old St. Joseph the Worker School first-grader, will star in the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's production of "A Musical Christmas Carol," which will begin showing Dec. 10.
The production will be Eli's first time on stage. He became interested in musical theater after his sister, Tessie Tokash, was cast in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" at the Pittsburgh CLO earlier this year. The children then joined the CLO Academy, and participated in summer productions, with Eli playing the part of King Louie in "The Jungle Book" and Tessie appearing in "Seussical The Musical" and "High School Musical," said the children's grandmother, Sharon Dragasich.
Eli was encouraged to try out for the part of Tiny Tim by his theater teachers, although he had never performed before joining the academy. Approximately 30 children tried out for the part, and Eli was among the three who received call backs. Although Eli's family didn't think he would get the part, he did.
"We were surprised and happy," said Dragasich.
Joseph Serafini, who was Tiny Tim for the past several years, had befriended the Tokashes and has offered his help and expertise to Eli in mastering his role.
Eli has several lines, which he has already memorized, and will have a solo with "Away in a Manger," which makes his grandmother nervous.
"It's a lot for a 6-year-old, but I know he can do it," she said.
Eli also has been practicing his British accent in preparation for the role.
"He went to see the accent coach, but he said he was doing just fine on his own," said Dragasich.
Practice began this week, and Eli had to have special permission and catch up on his school work and miss school in order to participate.
Eli has seen several versions of the classic tale, including Disney's 3-D offering starring Jim Carrey as he prepares to take on the role of Tiny Tim.
"He's seen a couple versions to familiarize himself with the character and the part," said Dragasich.
Eli is looking forward to working with Tom Atkins, who is playing Scrooge.
"He was really nice to me at the pictures (photo shoot)," said Eli. "He seemed really nice. I'm not really (nervous), more excited."
Eli has always enjoyed singing, and some of this favorite singers include the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana and the Doodle Bops. He also plays piano and is practicing Christmas carols.
He plays basketball at the Millsop Community Center with the Mean Machines and ice hockey in Pittsburgh with the Canadians. He wants to be a hockey player when he grows up, and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is his favorite hockey player.
The musical, conceived by David H. Bell, features authentic Victorian and pre-Victorian Christmas melodies, including "Silent Night," Hark! The Herald Angel Sing," "Good King Wenceslas," "The 12th Day of Christmas," "Deck the Halls," "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Joy to the World." Choirs from across the Tri-State Area will perform prior to each performance.
It follows Dickens' traditional story of Scrooge visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve in an attempt to avoid the fate of his one-time partner, Marley, whose greed fated his shade to never rest, wandering in chains.
Atkins, a Pittsburgh native, and director Tim Gregory return for their second year with "Christmas Carol."
Atkins (Scrooge) has appeared in "Escape from New York," "The Fog," "Creepshow," "Lethal Weapon," "Bob Roberts," "Striking Distance," "My Bloody Valentine 3D," "M*A*S*H," "The Rockford Files," "Homicide" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." He has appeared as Art Rooney Sr. in Pittsburgh Public Theater's "The Chief," and in "The Changing Room" and "The Front Page" on Broadway.
Gregory is the founding artistic director of Provision Theater Co., where he directed "A Christmas Carol," "C.S. Lewis on Stage," "The Spitfire Grill," "Beast on the Moon" and "Smoke on the Mountain."
The cast also includes Jeff Howell (Bob Cratchit), Ted Watts (Mr. Fezziwig/Ghost of Christmas Present), Joe Pedulla (Fred/Businessman), Michael Campayno (Peter Cratchit), Wesley Edwards (Tom Watkins/Dick Wilkins), Paul Domencic (Young Scrooge/Ghost of Christmas Future), Carl Draper (Topper/Goose Vendor), Daniel Krell (Marley's Ghost/Young Marley), Amanda Serra (Ghost of Christmas Past/Charity Collector), Amanda Slaughter (Mrs. Cratchit), Daina Michelle Griffith (Belle/Bess), Coty Warn (Missy Watkins/Martha Cratchit), Terry Wickline (Mrs. Dilber/Mrs. Fezziwig) and Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly (Fan/Alice).
The carolers include Greggory Brandt, Brittany Graham, Christina McCann and Scott Sambuco. The children include Alyssa Gephart, Rhiannon Passmore, Benjamin Pimental and Joseph Serafini.
The creative team includes musical director Bruce Barnes, in his third year with "Christmas Carol;" stage manager Fredric H. Orner; D. Martyn Bookwalter, scenery and lighting; and Andrew David Ostrowski, lighting.
"A Musical Christmas Carol" will be performed at 2 p.m. Dec. 13, 20 and 23; at 4 p.m. Dec. 12 and 20; at 6 p.m. Dec. 20; at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10-11, 14-18 and 21-23; and at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 and 19.
Tickets are available for $26.50 to $44.50, and half-price tickets are available for children 3-14, sponsored by Macy's. Tickets can be purchased by calling (412) 456-6666, online at pittsburghCLO.com or at the Theater Square Box Office.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)