By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
MINNEAPOLIS (September 23, 2010) – When Andrew Moy auditioned for the leading role in a Children’s Theater Company production, he was probably thinking that he would get the part – or he wouldn’t. Instead, the versatile ten year-old actor is getting some of the best training of his young life as an understudy for lead role in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, the first production for CTC’s 45th season.
“I know that I am a kid and that I am really fortunate to be on a stage like this,” said Andrew. “Its kind of like I am dreaming this right now.”
Andrew landed the understudy position for the lead role of Bartholomew Cubbins, a lonely boy in a small kingdom that wishes he had a more exciting life. Then one day he realizes that he cannot take his hat off without another one appearing in its place.
This becomes a problem with the king, who expects everyone to take their hats off in his presence, and Bartholomew’s dilemma infuriates him. The king sends elder, experts, a bowman and even the executioner to try to remove the hats – to no avail. After about 450 hats they begin to get more colorful and magical.
The 500th hat was the most ornate of all and with it came luck, prosperity, and health – and the king was now more interested in Bartholomew than ever. The young boy emerges from the madness and shows the audience inspiring moments of courage.
The play is a playful, musical and surprise-packed magical tribute to the Dr. Seuss book adapted for the stage by Timothy Mason with music by Hiram Titus. This early work of Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) is slightly more obscure for its prose but came to CTC via a personal connection with Dr. Seuss, who was reportedly impressed with the first CTC production of The Little Match Girl.
Seuss granted CTC royalty-free rights to produce 500 Hats and even attended the premier in 1980. He passed away in 1991.
Andrew said he is a Dr. Seuss fan and had read The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Horton Hears a Who, the hadn’t heard of 500 Hats until the audition. He said it is an interesting story with a character kids will identify with as someone who wants his life to be less boring.
“He is saying to think about your life right now, and to be happy with what you have and don’t second guess yourself with how happy you are,” he said.
Andrew said that he studied the character and made it his own, and in that sense would bring a different quality the role than Braxton. “How I did it wasn’t exactly the same, but it had the same feeling,” he said.
The special effects crew makes a new hat appear whenever the old one is removed. Andrew said this would please kids but that they would still wonder why the hats keep appearing because it is not explained in the context of the story.
“I think Dr. Seuss wanted kids to imagine how it happens and that is up to the kids,” he added.
Andrew said that as an understudy he is expected to be present for all rehearsals that involve Braxton Baker, the primary actor for Bartholomew Cubbins.
He said his acting process begins by memorizing the lines but that it is easier to remember them if he is also following his “blocking” or motion cues. He said this literally walks him from one line to the other, and one scene to the other.
“The movement and the lines go together nicely,” he said.
He has the lines and movements memorized but does not have the advantage to grow into the part interacting with other cast on stage during live performances. This creates an anxiety in youth and adult understudy actors, according to CTC public relations manager, Anne Schopen.
Some understudies have guaranteed performances when the central actor has time off arranged, while most are there to fill in when there is an unexpected illness or emergency. Andrew said he would like to see Braxton complete the production without incident and that he would be nervous if and when the day came to step into the role on stage.
Yet, Andrew is actively involved in the rehearsal process daily and enjoys his dual roles as an ensemble case member. He also appears as a townsperson and a courtier member of the king’s court.
“Andrew is a joy to have in the room, he is funny, quick and so smart,” said Peter Brosius, director. “He brings a vitality to each moment on stage and is always willing to try new things, to explore with us how to make each moment alive and vital.
“Andrew has a smile and an energy that just lights up the room. We are so happy to have him in this show,” Brosius added. “He is focused, prepared and ready to work and that makes it such fun to be with him, in addition to his wonderful, infectious laugh.”
The CTC productions have large audiences, and there were 750 kids for the opening matinee alone. Andrew said there were kids his age asking for autographs and that was something he was not used to it.
Andrew is a second generation Chinese American, and a very bright 10 year-old sixth grader. He jumped up through kindergarten and the school wanted to bump him up two grades but his parent’s decided against it.
His parents Steve and Linda Moy of Minneapolis, say the source of Andrew’s talent is a mystery, but that they support his passions and enrolled him in the Fine Arts Interdiciplinary Resource school in Crystal. Both FAIR and the St. Paul Conservatory have fine arts and theater arts programs and send a lot of talent to CTC productions.
Andrew was very young when he took an interest in television shows and it wasn’t long before he was singing and performing magic acts in front of people. His dream was to become a game show host, said Linda.
“I told him that he needs to start performing on stage,” she added.
Linda said that while growing up she did not have the opportunity to pursue her passions and that she wanted to make sure her son had every chance to explore his interests when it is most important as a child.
Andrew was studying music and Linda said his voice and piano teacher encouraged him to audition. She emphasized that auditions are a learning process and not to be disappointed with the rejections because it makes you a better performer.
This was good advice as Andrew overcame the rejection in auditioning for a school play, but soon after auditioned and landed the role of Tom Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie in 2008. At just nine years old he went on to land a role in of Baseball Saved Us, a story set in WWII Japanese American internment camps, put together by Stages Theater Company and Mu Performing Arts.
He was also cast in the Lyric Arts production of Bridge to Terabithia. More recently, Andrew appeared in the Stages production of Willy Wonka.
Linda said the large youth productions allow for parents to share responsibilities, and that Andrew now has “five moms” because of each show.
The 500 Hats runs through October 30, 2010 at Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404. Tickets range $16 to $40. www.childrenstheatre.org.