Jacob Goodson cut his theater teeth playing the Cowardly Lion in an Evergreen Elementary School presentation of “The Wizard of Oz.” He went on to flex his acting chops in “Rockin’ Tale of Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Last year, Jacob paid his dues in one of his first stage experiences outside of school: the children’s choir in the Toledo Repertoire Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” However, in the Rep’s 30th anniversary edition this weekend at the Valentine Theatre in Toledo, Jacob plans to dazzle audiences as Charles Dickens’ frail, diminutive but ever cheerful hero, Tiny Tim.
It’s one of many roles his former music teacher believes he was born to play. And it’s a character the 10-year-old Swanton resident is ready to embrace.
Jacob will hit the stage to proclaim, “God bless us, everyone!” Dec. 4-6. An additional two showings, reserved for area school groups, are sold out. His fellow members of the Evergreen Elementary School Choir will attend the one on Thursday to cheer him on.
“He got nervous going to rehearsal,” said his father, Chris Goodson. “I think he realized he’s got a lot bigger part this year. But once he got in with the other kids he got back to relaxing, and just had fun with it.”
The fifth-grade Evergreen student was among the top three of at least 10 boys who auditioned for the Tiny Tim role. Goodson said he and his wife Lisa, neither of whom were involved in their school productions, are surprised by their son’s acting and singing abilities.
“We’re not sure where it comes from,” he said. “He’s always done well, but I don’t think it was something we expected.”
When Jacob first hit the boards in “The Wizard of Oz” at age seven, he didn’t stand out among the cast members, Goodson said. It was during his second experience, in “Rockin’ Tale of Snow White,” that he began to shine.
“He’s really good at these plays. You could definitely tell he could really sing and act well. He wasn’t nervous up on stage,” he said.
He went on to play Lumiere in the school’s production of “Beauty and the Beast,” and attended the 2014 summer camp put on by the Children’s Theatre Workshop in Toledo. He also performed in a Rep show, “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood,” and this past summer was a member of the children’s choir for the Waterville Playshop presentation of “Aladdin.”
And while he initially experienced butterflies during “A Christmas Carol” rehearsals, Jacob has always taken to the stage and his roles with a natural ease, Goodson said.
“When he did ‘Robin Hood’ they sent home the script a week before. He looked it over once or twice,” he said. “The first day he went in he didn’t even take his script. It doesn’t seem to affect him. To him, it just seems like fun.”
The rehearsal schedule for “A Christmas Carol,” which usually kept Jacob at the Toledo School for the Arts until 9 p.m. about twice a week for over a month, and lately for four of five evenings a week, also hasn’t impacted his studies, his father said. Jacob remains a straight-A student.
Unfortunately, the production has interfered with Jacob’s involvement with the Children’s Choir of Northwest Ohio. He’s had to cut back on that pasttime, but only until after this weekend.
“A Christmas Carol” Director Debra Ross Calabrese said Jacob won the part of Tiny Tim “because he had the talent I needed. He was the best choice out of all of them. And he hasn’t proven us wrong. He really has been a joy to work with, and he does his homework. I am quite impressed with his acting and his voice.”
Jacob said he loves his time in the theater. “It just makes me so excited because a lot of people are watching, and because I practice so long,” he said.
He’s made the occasional flub onstage, but he doesn’t have problems with the jitters. “Because I know I can act, and because I know I’m good at it,” Jacob said confidently.
Alice Inman, an Evergreen Elementary music teacher for 26 years before retiring after the past school year, said Jacob was one of her most talented students. She will attend “A Christmas Carol” to watch his performance.
“I can see him on Broadway some day,” she said. “He is so good. He stole the show every time. He is so relaxed on the stage. It just fits him. He’s a prodigy.”
When he performed in “Beauty and the Beast” he knew his lines and the music within the first 10 days of rehearsal, Inman said. When he was challenged to speak his role with a French accent, he mastered it, she said.
“And he’s not one to brag about it. The other children love to watch him perform,” Inman added. “They’re not jealous because he’s so humble. He’s one of the most promising students I’ve had. I believe you could give him any part in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and he could do it.”
His sister Sophia has also shown a bit of interest in theater, but pursues her own talents, Goodson said.
As for Jacob, he looks forward to future performances. He is presently wavering between a career as an actor or his second favorite interest, paleontology.
He can act the ham at home, but he also has a serious side, his father said. The attention he draws through acting and singing hasn’t turned his head.
“We’re definitely proud of him. I like that he seems to have found his niche,” Goodson said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.