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    Categories: Entertainment

Fifth grader makes Citadel debut

The 19th century Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “If a man love the labour of any trade apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him.”

More than a century later these words still ring true in Hailey Benedict, 10, who makes her debut at Citadel Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. The Grade 5 Keenooshayo Elementary School student has captured the role of Jenny Cratchit along with two non-speaking roles as a street urchin and Fezzi maid.

“I wanted to be a Cratchit. I was in music lessons when my mom came and told me and I was screaming all over the house,” Hailey smiles, recalling how excited she was when an e-mail with audition results arrived.

This has been a phenomenal year of firsts for Hailey. She won the 2012 St. Albert Kids Idol, reached Capital Ex’s Northern Star competition as a finalist and won a St. Albert Rotary Festival scholarship for a musical theatre performance.

And when faced with bullying after someone at school wrote defamatory remarks in the school bathroom about her and some friends, the highly articulate young girl solved the problem by writing a song.

That’s Me was recorded at V-Studio and a video of the recording was posted online.

“It’s about not giving up and to be yourself. Just be strong,” Hailey explained.

If you saw Hailey walking down the street with a group of friends, she’d blend in perfectly with the crowd. However, the big smile is a giveaway.

She loves school, in particular science, drama and math. Curious about the world, she loves to try out experiments. Her mother Brandee Benedict confirms this with a laugh.

“She’s notorious for going through my pantry and then I go to bake something, and it’s ‘where did the baking soda go?’ She says, ‘Oh, I used it for an experiment.’”

When hanging out with friends, Hailey is your typical kid. She makes crafts, enjoys sleepovers, sings karaoke, makes up skits and loves movies.

In case you haven’t guessed, her favourite singer is Taylor Swift. Not only is Hailey a collector of Swift music, but she’s also plastered about eight of the celebrity’s posters throughout the house.

Although Hailey describes herself as the tiniest in class, she’s actually a dynamo with energy to spare. For the run of A Christmas Carol, she will perform in 27 shows from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23.

And although she only has about 10 lines in A Christmas Carol, Hailey feels a kindred spirit to her character Jenny, a girl who lives an infinitely more simple life.

“She’s a fun girl who loves to play in the snow and she’s always cheerful. She’s excited when someone comes over, and she teases her brother. I don’t have a brother, but I sometimes tease my sister.”

The entire cast is like a second family, and Hailey feels a special closeness to Julien Arnold (Mr. Cratchit) and Kate Ryan (Mrs. Cratchit).

“They’re so loving. They try to work so hard and even when we’re backstage they’re caring and loving. They really do make a great mom and dad.”

When it comes to Scrooge, you get the sense that Hailey believes the journey the old codger makes is an important one and that maybe we should all take a look at our actions.

“Scrooge needs to help more people. He needs to spend more time with his nephew and give his clerk more money and be happy. By reliving the past, he can make a better future,” she said.

Of co-directors Bob Baker and Geoffrey Brumlik, Hailey just gushes praise.

“He (Bob) is the best director you could have. He’s nice. He’s funny. Him and Geoff give notes and they are always in the Christmas spirit. They tell you how to feel and you feel it more. They’re just awesome, awesome, awesome.”

With wisdom beyond her years, she adds that there are a lot of artists and technicians in different disciplines working to make this show a success.

“I want people to leave in the Christmas spirit and say ‘wow. This is awesome.’”

A Christmas Carol previews start Friday, Nov. 30 and opening night is Thursday, Dec. 6. Call 780-425-1820 or online at www.citadeltheatre.com.

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.