Mya Parker is all set to make a major career step in what she calls “the acting business” — graduating from supporting to leading roles.
That’s an ambitious goal, especially considering that Mya is 10. Her starring turn is as lovestruck rag doll Sally in The Cutting Edge Theater’s production of “Nightmare Before Christmas — The Musical.”
The original live-action adaptation of the 1993 Tim Burton Claymation classic, with a cast of 35 children, begins its two-weekend run in Slidell on Friday.
Mya, a fifth-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes, has a clear-eyed vision about her goal.
“I definitely want to prove I can handle this so people will take me more seriously, and I can start doing adult plays,” she said. “And I want bigger roles so maybe one day I can be a real actress.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but I just love acting. I love practicing with my friends here and meeting new people. At the end, we get to have this great cast party.”
Mya’s co-star, Gage Blackwell, who’s playing Jack, the Pumpkin King who’s the object of Sally’s secret affection, isn’t quite as definite about his professional ambitions, although director Jennifer Gestvantner said, “Gage has blossomed into an amazing young actor.
“If he wants to, he’s going to really be something someday.”
But Gage, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Pearl River Central Middle School in Mississippi, has more personal reasons for enjoying this role.
“I get to be the boss of everyone,” he said. “I like doing that.”
Small wonder Gage’s last role was of Gaston in "Beauty & the Beast Jr." at Paramount Academy in Mandeville.
“I love being the villain,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun.”
Nearly as much fun, Gage added, as being in a show about both Halloween and Christmas, “two of the best holidays smushed together.”
Even the timing — falling squarely between the two — seems right.
"Nightmare Before Christmas" is about Jack, the ruler of Halloween Town, who has grown weary of the same old routine and, while wandering around, discovers Christmas Town. He decides he and his minions will take over Christmas with their own diabolic twists.
Burton’s movie, using slow-action animation, was chock-full of fantastic creatures.
For this production, however, Richard Fuentes is making all of the monsters and other characters come to life through imaginative costuming while retaining all of the songs from the movie.
“You’ve got spiders and snakes and other stuff,” Gestvantner said. “Except we’ve got kids onstage and they’re the monsters.
“They’ve got to come up with their own characters, too. One boy started limping on stage and he told me he was a corpse with a bum leg.”
That, she added, is what makes doing children’s theater both challenging and rewarding. Gestvantner directed "Peter Pan" at Cutting Edge this summer and has helmed numerous others in the past 15 years.
“It can be hard to get control of the room,” she acknowledged. “In this play, we’ve got kids from 6 to 18, and I’m trying to get them into the same mindset when sometimes they just want to talk.
“But then you see kids who really develop their talents and develop a passion for the stage. Even if they don’t carry on with it, this gives them so much more confidence than before.”
Gestvantner said she sees a real future for Mya and Gage.
“She has come such a long way in a short time,” Gestvantner said of Mya, who was the Native American princess Tiger Lily in "Peter Pan." “She’s gone from just memorizing her lines into making them believable for her character, which is the biggest challenge for any actor to overcome.
“She already had a strong singing voice. She’s learned how to convey emotion with it, too.”
Gage has a few years of experience.
“His voice is so good, and the rest just naturally comes along with it," she said.
Mya said she's ready for her close-up.
“I can’t wait for opening night,” she said. “All of my friends are coming to cheer for me.
“It’s kind of like feeling very special.”