St. Albert based Emmy Richardson is basking in the glow of stage lights as Tim Cratchit during the run of Citadel Theatre’s A Christmas Carol.
“I like how people laugh at the lines and I like being Tim because the girls who play my sisters, Wren and Aubrey, their roles are so funny, and I try to be funny like them,” said eight-year-old Emmy, who shares the role with Elias Martin.
Although this is Emmy’s debut performance at Citadel Theatre, her previous acting credits are extensive for someone so young. They include The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Visionary Arts College), and Under the Christmas Sky, a Hallmark movie that was broadcast on October 22, 2023.
Playwright David van Belle has updated Charles Dickens’ tale to the 1950s yet retained the basic story of rich old miserly Scrooge who learns the value of love and generosity thanks to the intervention of four ghosts who visit him on Christmas Eve.
As one of Dickens' most enduring characters, the traditional Tiny Tim was played by an actor wearing a leg brace and using a crutch. Dickens never explained why Tim is disabled, however contemporary scientists have surmised the young boy could have suffered from rickets, tuberculosis or polio.
In van Belle’s adaptation, there is less emphasis on disability and more attention paid to Tim as a plucky, young boy who occasionally needs the help of an older brother (Josh Plamondon). And in keeping with the theatre company’s mandate of creating a barrier-free environment, it casts disabled actors in the role of Tim.
“Scrooge doesn’t know Tim has medical needs, and there are additional costs for the family. It’s how David van Belle adapted it. It’s so very inclusive. That’s one of the things that drew me as a parent,” said Jodi Richardson, Emmy’s mother.
In Emmy’s case, the high-spirited young girl was born with spinal dysgenesis, an umbrella term meaning the spine did not develop correctly.
“Some people think they have to focus on a disability. I have crutches, but they don’t have to do that. I’d like them to focus on disability appropriate,” Emmy said.
Kello Inclusive, a talent agency for disabled and visibly different actors, represents Emmy in auditioning and receiving professional roles. Emmy’s big break came when she was cast as Lila in Under the Christmas Sky. Lila is wheelchair-bound but dreams of going into space.
“But she doesn't think she can go because she's in a wheelchair,” Emmy said.
She meets Kat, a young astronaut destined to go into space until an accident grounds her. Kat meets David, Lila’s father, a by-the-book exhibition curator. Sparks fly on all levels, and through Kat, Lila meets George, a wheelchair-bound scientist who works in the space program.
Emmy auditioned for the role of Tim during filming and received a call-back for a second audition.
“On the last day of filming she was offered the part,” said Jodi.
As for A Christmas Carol, Emmy recommends it to everyone and not because she’s acting in it.
“It’s really, really funny. And it’s cool. There is pyro. Somebody makes a bed spin and Scrooge disappears out of the bed. There are some really cool effects.”
Emmy performs Dec. 14, 16 (matinee), 17, 20 (matinee), 21, 22, 23. Citadel Theatre is located at 9828 – 101A in Edmonton. Tickets are available at 780-425-1820 or online at citadeltheatre.com.