A Marguerite Vann Elementary third-grader has landed a big role.
Eight-year-old Simon Marotte will take center stage in Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s upcoming musical production, "Oliver!" an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel "Oliver Twist."
The play is one of four the company will produce in this year’s summer season that begins June 6.
Others are "King Lear," "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," and "Much Ado About Nothing."
As Oliver, Simon will have his first singing solo in front of a real audience, though he has, with his brother and sister, been part of many home productions.
The Marotte family, including sister Olivia and brother Ethan, is theatre oriented.
Mary Ruth Marotte, an English professor at the University of Central Arkansas, is AST executive director and mother to Simon, Olivia and Ethan.
Simon, Ethan and Olivia have all been part of AST and other company productions small and large.
Simon has been part of the chorus in UCA’s Public Appearances production of "The Wizard of Oz" and in AST’s "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat."
Marotte said she was shocked to hear Simon was chosen for the main role by a New York director, who she said did not know he was her son.
"When he went in he was auditioning for the chorus," Marotte said. "It was shocking."
Simon said he was nervous at auditions, but he is going to be O.K. with being in front of such a large audience.
"It’s fun. I just like doing new things," he said. "I haven’t been on a big stage with just a spotlight on me."
Marotte said Simon has been able to sit and watch theatre productions since age 2.
"Part is what you grow up with," she said.
Simon has two hours of voice lessons each week to fit in with his other interests, school, and activities.
His mom said he goes to the lessons of his own volition.
Simon says he likes school, playing piano, playing outside and riding his bike.
When he’s inside, he is in the middle of one of four books.
Simon explains "Oliver!" as a story of an orphan boy who is looking for a family.
"It’s about a boy who had a mom, but she died. He became an orphan. People were mean to him, and he ran away and went to London," he said. "Some pickpockets got a hold of him and taught him how to pickpocket. He was searching for a family."
"Oliver!" opens June 12 at Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA.
For more information about AST’s season and production times, visit www.arkshakes.com.