TIVERTON — Before he got the acting bug, 8-year-old Nicholas Maltais of Tiverton was planning on becoming a software engineer.
But now that he’s starring as Tiny Tim in Trinity Repertory Co.‘s annual holiday production of “A Christmas Carol,” he’s had to rethink his career plans.
“Probably, I’m going to do both,” said Nicholas, a third-grade student at St. Philomena School who appears in the production’s “red” cast (there’s another group of children who play in the “green” cast).
Added his mom, Michelle Maltais, “He could pay the bills — and act.”
It’s been a whirlwind few months for the young boy and his family, who have been traveling from Tiverton to Providence six days a week for rehearsals and performances for more than two months now.
“Right after school, all day on the weekends and it’s been going since Oct. 10,” Ms. Maltais said. “His first performance was Nov. 6 and it goes through the 28th of December. They do more than one (performance) a day, but never with the same children’s cast. Starting next week he has 11 straight shows in a row.”
The family (dad is retired Tiverton Deputy Police Chief Nicholas Malais, who now works for Salve Regina University’s campus police, and his brother Zachary just turned 7) certainly didn’t see this coming. Nicholas had no previous acting experience, but he also has no shortage of confidence. It started when he saw Cardi’s Furniture Store’s commercials promoting the auditions for Trinity Rep’s beloved holiday tradition.
“I saw the commercials on TV, and I was really excited to do it,” said Nicholas.
His mom wasn’t so sure.
“I thought it was a horse and pony show, there were going to be a couple of hundred people there, we were going to be in line all day,” Ms. Maltais said. “I must have said no at least 50 times and finally I got sick of hearing him say, ‘Mom, please take me!’”
So they went, despite the fact that Nicholas didn’t even know the story of “A Christmas Carol.” Like his mom feared, there were more than 200 people at the first round of auditions, which was whittled down to 50 in the second round.
“We went to the tryouts one time, and I got that. Then I went for the second tryout and I got that and I ended up getting it,” said Nicholas.
The director was impressed with Nicholas’ seemingly innate acting skills. “He just has a natural ability,” said Ms. Maltais. “He’s a player.”
Although performances began in November, Nicholas didn’t get to see one of the full shows — from the audience — until Dec. 11. What did he think?
“It teaches a lesson about Christmas and how (Tiny Tim) can see the good in others,” said Nicholas, adding that he never tires of playing the character.
And yes, he knows that line pretty well by now. “God bless us all — everyone,” he said.
As is the case with many Trinity actors, Nicholas plays more than one part. This year Trinity added an extra wrinkle, too.
“This time there’s no Ghost of Christmas Future; it’s the Ghost of Tiny Tim and I play him, too,” said Nicholas, who also performs in the roles of a caroler, an orphan, an apprentice at Fezziwig’s and more.
The family hopes the roles could lead to bigger things.
“The kid who played the turkey boy a couple of years ago was asked to be the best friend to Greg in the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ movie,” said Ms. Maltais. “They always have scouts in the audience. You never know.”
The biggest challenge of being a Trinity child actor isn’t memorizing lines or hitting the right spots on stage.
“It’s the traffic,” said Nicholas.
Fridays are the worst.
“There have been Fridays where we give ourselves two hours trying to get there. It’s always insane. It’s a 20-minute ride but it takes two hours at rush hour,” said Ms. Maltais.
The six-day-a-week schedule means that on some nights, Nicholas is up until 10:30 p.m. doing his homework. Despite the hustle, he’s kept his grades up, impressing St. Philomena Principal Donna Glavin-Bettencourt, who came to see Nicholas perform Sunday night.
“She said she was surprised at well he did on his report card,” said Ms. Maltais. “He got seven As and three Bs, and one of the Bs was in gym — his least-favorite subject. He got an A+ in science and an A in advanced math.”
Although Nicholas has made new friends at Trinity and loves acting, there is one part of the experience of which he’s not fond.
“For the ghost, I have to put on all this makeup. After every show, I have to take a shower.”