As the Omaha Community Playhouse prepares to transport theatergoers to Victorian England with their annual production of A Christmas Carol, 8-year-old Mackenzie Reidy is getting ready to be catapulted into the world of theater for the first time.
The bubbly La Vista native scored her first-ever acting role in this year’s production, and it’s a big one—she will be playing good-hearted Tiny Tim, the boy who personifies the show’s whole message of Christmas spirit. But with a toothy grin and a sense of fearlessness, Mackenzie is more than ready to spread the cheer.
Mackenzie caught the theater bug suddenly last year when she surprised her mother, Melissa, with the announcement that she wanted to audition for Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre’s production of Annie. While Mackenzie didn’t get a part in the production, she enjoyed the process and decided to give theatre another shot after Melissa saw upcoming auditions for a production of the Charles Dickens classic. While Mackenzie was gung-ho, Melissa and her husband approached the auditions with a cautious optimism.
“It’s a fine line between having faith in her and preparing her for reality. There were a lot of kids there, and obviously a lot of kids who have done it before,” Melissa says. “So I figured, if anything, maybe a choir part, not Tiny Tim.”
Susan Baer Collins, one of the show’s directors, remembers Mackenzie’s first audition well. Baer Collins mentions that one of the biggest problems with casting children is that many are
too shy. But after Mackenzie belted out two verses of “On Top of Spaghetti,” and “sang like a demon,” according to Baer Collins, the show’s directors knew Mackenzie would have no problem with confidence.
After Mackenzie’s cheesy approach won over the directors, she was called back for a second round of auditions. Melissa began to suspect that Mackenzie might have a larger role in the production than originally anticipated when the directors had Mackenzie read for Tiny Tim. But she says she was still floored when the Reidy household came home to a voicemail from the Omaha Community Playhouse—quickly followed by a scream from Mackenzie.
While the Omaha Community Playhouse’s main stage production of A Christmas Carol has never had a female Tiny Tim, it is standard on tour. Tiny Tim has to be small enough to be easily carried by Bob Cratchit, and Baer Collins says that many boys who come into audition are too tall or too large for that.
But it’s not enough to just be tiny—a Tiny Tim has to be preco-cious yet convincing enough that it’s believable that resident humbug Ebenezer Scrooge can be won over by the waif.
“People talk about Tim as being “God-like”, and you know in spite of his infirmity, he’s always thinking of others, so you’re looking for a kind of value that someone can project,” says Baer Collins.
Mackenzie has some large shoes to fill—the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production has seen 40 years’ worth of actors fill the role of Tiny Tim—but she has no qualms about getting up on stage. She says that she’s most excited for being able to act on stage and to make new friends.
While Mackenzie says she wants to try out for more plays, for now she’s simply relishing her time in the spotlight. When asked what her dream role was, she responded with a wry smile and, “Well, that’s kind of the role I just got.”