For a 9-year-old Butler Elementary fourth grader, her first step in show business is a big one.
Catherine Coble has landed a role in the world's longest running musical, Les Misérables, July 17-20 and July 25-27 at NWFSC's Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville.
As a member of the cast, Catherine is excited about this role in her first production.
"I play the young Eponine, who is basically a rich kid who isn't very nice," Catherine told The Sun. "For this part, I act. But, I am also learning the young Cosette part in case they need me to play that any of the nights. And, I am now going to be a street urchin, too, on the nights I play the young Eponine, so that I can sing some in the main chorus."
It's a busy time with rehearsals twice a week for this elementary student, who took her first singing lesson in August 2012 from Dayna Iscano, children's pastor at Good News United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa Beach.
"Normally, I wait to take students in their fourth grade year to protect their voices, but Catherine started asking for lessons when she was in second grade,” Dayna, who has a background in musical theater such as "Carousel" and "My Fair Lady," told The Sun. "Catherine is very sweet, sometimes shy around adults, and a serious child. So I'm looking forward to watching her grow as a singer — to see how singing helps her learn to express herself and communicate."
Catherine has a strong lower voice, but can also hit a high F during vocal warm ups.
"Pretty impressive for a child,” Dayna said. “So she has the potential of having a really great range."
In addition to Les Mis, Catherine has a voice project for the church and is working on a contemporary praise song with Dayna this summer.
"I love Ms. Dayna," Catherine said. "I didn't like the first lessons because all I did was breathing exercises, but I loved it when I started to get to sing. My favorite part is singing the songs, and I like to perform."
Being at an audition only seven months after beginning voice lessons isn't typical and can be a scary experience for one so young. Dayna accompanied the Cobles to the audition and had Catherine do warm up exercises in the car.
“They made the kids audition just like the adults," Dayna said. "In a 'chorus line', then went over the piece a few times and then they went down the line and each one sang in front of everyone. That's intimidating for adults, let alone a child."
Catherine was one of the few children who accompanied the song with acting, which she and Dayna had worked on.
"I knew she was going to do well and I just wanted her to walk away feeling that she had done the best she could that day," Dayna said. "I couldn't have been more proud as a teacher."
Catherine's mother, Amy Wise-Coble, said watching the audition was a nerve-racking experience.
"Catherine does not practice in front of anyone at home, so I had no idea what to expect," Amy told The Sun. "I knew her performance at Christmas in the children's program at Good News was beautiful, so I knew she had it in her. But I was worried she would be too nervous. And, neither one of us had ever been to any type of audition."
Dayna views the audition as a time to show what Catherine has learned and the progress she has made.
"I love to try and help Catherine find times to use the gift God has given her," Dayna said. "The timing of the audition was perfect … God's timing."
Catherine is enjoying her first step into show business and said everyone has been very nice to her.
"But, it is sometimes hard to understand what the director is telling us to do," she said. "I have to learn what some of the words he uses mean, and he talks fast."
So is there a new star emerging on the horizon from Santa Rosa Beach?
"Yes, I think I would like that," Catherine said. "But, my part in Les Mis is very small … I have a long way to go."
WANT TO GO?
Northwest Florida State College presents Les Misérables July 17-20 and 25-27 at the college’s Mattie Kelly Arts Center. Tickets are $25/adults and $20/youth ages 18 and younger and may be purchased in-person, by phone at 729-6000 or at www.mattiekellyartscenter.org.