Playing Belinda and “Tiny Tim” Cratchit in Beef & Boards’ one-hour version of A Christmas Carol comes easily for Charlotte and Holland Barnes.
The Brownsburg residents are drawing on the chemistry they have as real-life brother and sister to portray the youngest children of Bob Cratchit, Ebenezer Scrooge's meek clerk.
This classic holiday tale, which follows the life and eventual evolution of penny-pinching Scrooge, opened over the weekend and will play for a limited 10-performance run through Dec. 21 at Beef & Boards.
Although she shares the stage with her little brother, Charlotte admits to having mixed emotions opening day.
“I was really nervous and excited at the same time, because I knew a bunch of people from my school were going to see it, and because it was the first actual performance,” says the 11-year-old fifth-grader who attends Eagle Elementary with 7-year-old Holland. “I didn’t know how it would all go with the music and the lighting. But I think I did pretty well. The nervousness went away as soon as I got on stage.”
Holland, who’s in his second Beef & Boards production, gave Charlotte a thumbs-up on her debut. He says nervousness doesn’t really bother him.
“At the first show (Peter Pan) I wasn’t that nervous because of all the practice that I had,” says Holland, a second-grader. “And in this show, I wasn’t nervous because I knew I could do it from the first show, which was one-and-a-half hours longer than this show.”
For the Barnes children, performing together is becoming the norm.
Holland and older brother Simon both made their acting debuts in Beef & Boards’ Peter Pan in May, with Holland as Michael Darling and Simon as Brains, one of the Lost Boys.
Holland and Charlotte Barnes star as Tiny Tim and Belinda Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Charlotte, 11, and Holland, 7, are performing for the first time together on the Beef & Boards stage.
Simon, 14, a freshman at Brownsburg High School, followed up his performance in Peter Pan with the role of Pugsley in The Addams Family, which ended in November.
Beth Barnes says having three thespians in the family was not part of any master plan she and husband, Andy, created for their children.
It really started with an audition announcement she saw for Peter Pan at Beef & Boards, where she has worked for 22 years.
“I knew Simon would want to go for it because he’s sung and done stuff in school and never gets nervous,” she says. “And I just thought, why not throw (Holland) into the mix. I knew he was cute and he could read with expression, and, above all, he will do what you tell him to do, which is very important for kids in theater.”
Barnes says when she learned both boys had been cast in Peter Pan, she thought, “Well, here we go.”
Ebenezer Scrooge (Eddie Curry), left, is horrified to learn that the fate that befell his business partner Jacob Marley (Daniel Klingler) could also be his own in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s one-hour production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Since April it’s been nonstop rehearsals and performances for the Barnes children, while balancing school and homework. In order to keep acting, Barnes says her children must maintain their grades.
“When you’re doing something like this, you have to stay in communication with their teachers,” says Barnes, who notes that with the various matinees associated with A Christmas Carol, Charlotte and Holland have to leave school early on certain days. “Their schools have been very supportive.”
The children’s newfound love of theater has become a family affair, with Mom and Dad helping run and memorize lines.
“Because we’re giant nerds, we play the parts at home,” says Barnes, laughing.
Having three kids who have fallen in love with theater isn’t far-fetched, but it is a welcomed surprise. They all grew up attending arts productions and also going to work at Beef & Boards with their mom.
“Because I’ve been here so long, they’ve been coming here since before they were born,” says Barnes. “This place really feels like home to them, so they’re not different when they come in here. For them, they’re still at home.”
A newly-reformed Ebenezer Scrooge (Eddie Curry) celebrates Christmas with Tiny Tim (Holland Barnes) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s one-hour production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Barnes says oldest son Ethan Ferrer, now 21, used to be a choral singer in the Indianapolis Children’s Choir.
“He loved it, but he never wanted to be a spotlight player. He’s a group person,” says Barnes. “And then I got three spotlight kids.”
She believes the younger children’s desire and ease in the spotlight came from her. But she says her husband, who’s generally more reserved, is a bit of a ham.
“What’s funny is with their dad you’d never guess that about him. He doesn’t want to be on the stage, but he still talks about playing Templeton in Charlotte’s Web in grade school and how great of an experience that was,” says Barnes. “And he loves to play with the kids and relishes reading with them.”
Charlotte and Holland say they would love to keep acting. There’s a chance they will get to reprise their roles as Belinda and Tiny Tim in next year’s production of A Christmas Carol.
Holland already has his eyes and mind set on a role in one of the dinner theater’s 2016 productions.
“I hope I can be Chip,” he blurts out with the unbridled excitement of a 7-year-old. He’s referring to the lovable teacup in Beauty and the Beast.
The Cratchits celebrate the holiday together in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s one-hour production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
When Barnes says she has explained to Holland that Chip doesn’t have many lines and that the actor spends most of his time in a cart with his face inside of a makeshift teacup, he’s completely unwavering in his decision.
“I wanna be a Chip,” says Holland, emphatically. “I wanna be acting.”
Unlike her younger brother, Charlotte doesn’t have a set role in mind for her next production. What she does know is that she feels at home on stage.
A Christmas Carol has given her a taste of what her brothers have been doing in the theater.
“It was really interesting watching them on stage, because I hadn’t really seen them do that kind of stuff before,” says Charlotte. “I mean, I’ve seen Simon sing and Holland at soccer, but I hadn’t really seen them dancing and singing like that. When I saw them on stage, I wanted to do it, too.”
Despite her limited theater experience, Charlotte isn’t a stranger to the stage. For several years she has performed in ballets as a pre-professional student at the Indianapolis School of Ballet.
In addition to being able to act alongside Holland in A Christmas Carol, she also is playing a Party Girl at Mr. Fezziwig’s gathering. It’s a role she’s always wanted to perform in the classic holiday ballet, The Nutcracker. But it’s a role that has eluded her in the past.
“I have always wanted to be a Party Girl in “The Nutcracker,” so I was really excited to be any party girl,” says Charlotte, “and I still get to wear a puffy dress.”
Beth Barnes says watching her children perform on stage always brings tears to her eyes - not just because they are fulfilling their dreams, but also because of what she watches them show on stage. Things she didn’t know they had.
With Simon, she’s watched him learn to wait for laughs and how to time something so it will get the biggest laughs. In Holland, who she describes as a “naturally grouchy old curmudgeon who makes people work for his love,” she has seen him show just how big his heart is, thanks to the “uber sweet” roles he’s been landing.
“What I see when he’s on stage is him show that big heart that he has, and the stage is a great place for him to practice that and let that shine.”
Tiny Tim (Holland Barnes) and Mrs. Cratchit (Erin Cohenour) perform a song together in A Christmas Carol, while Belinda Cratchit watches, at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre.
With Charlotte, she’s witnessing pure joy.
“She’s been dancing since she was 3, and I’ve always known that she was very precise and orderly and making sure things were just so,” says Barnes. “You worry with a kid like that if they would be able to just relax, and I’m seeing in this role that she’s joyful and she’s not stressed out about it. She gets out there and she’s just full of unfettered joy.”
Barnes attributes the arts with her children’s growth, and bringing out a different side of their personalities.
“With the arts, when children or anyone is able to express themselves, they are revealing part of their souls that they are sharing with the world,” she says. “There’s an expressiveness and a sensitivity that’s developed through the arts … I love watching them share their souls with other human beings and have that responded to positively. It’s a soulful endeavor.”
A Christmas Carol
What: A one-hour version of the Charles Dickens classic holiday tale.
When: Daily through Dec. 21. Matinees are Dec. 8, 11, 14, 15 and 18, Evening shows are Dec. 14 and 21.
Where: Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road.
Tickets: $25.50 to $35.50 (includes show and holiday buffet).
Info: (317) 872-9664 or www.beefandboards.com.