It is poignant when the story becomes the reality. It is unforgettable when the two collide as they will in the North Texas Performing Art’s 8th annual production of Scrooge – The Musical.
In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (upon which Scrooge is based), Tiny Tim represents the achievement of goodness over adversity, that of a little boy facing a crippling disease, born to a working-class family but with a gift of a bright attitude and a positive hope for the future who ultimately melts the heart of the selfish Scrooge.
Jonathan Rizzo auditioned and won the role of Tiny Tim in NTPA’s annual Christmas Celebration Tradition because in his words, “I wanted to play Tiny Tim because he is just like me and I know what it feels like to be him”.
Jonathan, now eleven years old, was diagnosed a little over a year ago with limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 2C. While today he still has a full range of motion, he experiences strength loss in his hips and is often wheelchair bound.
“We’re both crippled,” says Jonathan, knowingly. “I’m in a wheelchair and he’s with a crutch … and I get worse and worse, and he gets worse and worse.” This progressive inherited genetic disease generally leads to an eventual loss of the ability to walk and a shortened lifespan. There is no known cure.
But Jonathan happily takes the stage in this, his 24th show, saying “when I’m on the stage, I feel proud and confident … and I become the role and don’t think about any of this.” When asked if he gets nervous taking the stage, “No, I’m not nervous at all … none of this scares me.”
“He’s such a positive little guy with such a warm and bright personality,” says Darrell Rodenbaugh, playing opposite Jonathan in the role of Scrooge. “We didn’t know he was facing this until he rolled into rehearsal in a wheelchair.” As Jonathan’s father, Michael Rizzo relates, “he has his good days and his bad, and more often he needs the chair.”
In the musical Scrooge, Jonathan will sing A Beautiful Day, a solo relating Tiny Tim’s dream for a future beautiful day where wishes come true. When asked what he would wish for, Jonathan replied without hesitation, “I wish I could ride my bicycle and jump on a trampoline with my friends.”
In most ways, Jonathan is like every other eleven-year-old, though given his health challenges, he is homeschooled. His favorite drink is a chocolate shake and he loves penne with red sauce. He plays “Fortnite” and wants to either be a “You-Tube Gamer or a neuro-muscular doctor … so that I can help other kids that are in the same situation that I’m in, or maybe an actor… I haven’t decided yet.”
When asked what he likes best about being part of Scrooge, Jonathan explains: “I like being in a cast with both adults and kids, and I’ve already made a new friend!”
“We are 100% on board with talking about his obstacles and his successes overcoming all of this,” shares his mother, Tiffany Rizzo, who works as a respiratory therapist at Medical City of Plano. “I think it’s fitting for him to be in the role of a boy who had nothing of monetary value, a life shortening ailment, and despite all of this, like Tiny Tim, has a great big heart full of love and joy.”
“We want to provide a place where every child’s voice can be heard, and Jonathan has a very powerful and inspirational message,” says Director Sara Egelston Akers. “Each year we choose a charity to honor during our annual Scrooge production and he so inspired us that we are donating $1 of every ticket sold to Muscular Dystrophy research in his honor.”
In the show, Scrooge provides doctors and medical care to Tiny Tim, changing his fate. Next year, Jonathan will participate in an experimental clinical trial employing gene therapy with the hope of protecting him from deteriorating further, and possibly even restore some functions.
Tiny Tim’s solo concludes, “If my wish could come true somehow, then the beautiful day that I dream about would be here and now.”
Scrooge – The Musical
Now in its 8th big year, North Texas Performing Arts Repertory Theatre presents “Scrooge – The Musical”, December 7-9 at the Rodenbaugh Theatre in the Willow Bend Center of the Arts at The Shops of Willow Bend, and December 12 -14 at the downtown Plano Courtyard Theatre.
This year’s cast will feature professional and amateur actors and over 60 adults and children from the DFW metroplex. “Scrooge” is directed by NTPA Founder and NTPA Executive Director, Sara Akers.
This year’s production again features a very special “Merry Christmas Celebration” including a “last chance” for children to meet with Santa and Mrs. Santa at Santa’s Workshop before each show. Each show also begins with favorite Christmas Carols of the cast and audience.
NTPA will offer again it’s “Gift to the Community” performance for underprivileged and disadvantaged children, families and groups by offering a special “No Admission” show on December 6, 2018.
For more information, go to www.ntpa.org