There is some serious excitement in the air in this elementary school class today, and for good reason, because one of its very own students has achieved a level of celebrity that most of his peers could only dream of: This fifth grader is leaving math class early to go play the Artful Dodger in a community theater production of “Oliver!”
How exciting! This kid’s lucky classmates are rubbing elbows with a true A-lister.
Ten-year-old Caleb Lerner of Reston, Virginia may seem like your average Spring Hill Elementary School student, but today, his incredible dramatic gifts are so desperately needed on the stage that they will have to take precedence over his studies. In just a couple hours, Caleb’s mom is coming to pull him out of math class early so that he can make it to the tech run-through for “Oliver!”, which opens tonight at the Spring Hill Community Center auditorium. As Caleb explained to his classmates this morning when he hung his specially tailored costume in its garment bag back by the cubbies, this “Oliver!” performance will be nothing like the annual Spring Hill Elementary Thanksgiving pageant where every single student gets a role. To the contrary, this is a serious grown-up production, and Caleb had to go through three whole rounds of formal auditions in front of the theater’s director—who, by the way, is a legitimate big-time artiste who had numerous supporting roles on Broadway back in the ‘90s—to get cast as the Artful Dodger, and even worked with a professional vocal coach to perfect his Cockney accent in the months leading up to the show.
Not since Nina Gallagher performed viola in the regional orchestra competition in 2015 has anyone at Spring Hill reached these stratospheric levels of fame! People are paying a full $10 to get into the show tonight, which will feature real adult actors, some of whom even have real professional experience. It’s safe to say that none of Caleb’s friends can even begin to imagine what it feels like to be as deeply embedded in the world of show business as Caleb is right now.
Fortunately, Caleb has embraced his newfound celebrity with incredible grace, kindly letting younger students look at the big script he has with all his lines highlighted and touch the glossy playbill that contains his headshot and bio and everything. And despite the steep demands of life in the limelight, Caleb is adjusting well, having coordinated with his teachers to get important homework assignments sent home ahead of time so that he can keep up with his studies during the long hours backstage in the green room when he’s waiting to rehearse his scenes—just like real child celebrities do!
All of Caleb’s classmates will undoubtedly be in total awe of him today when he gets called out of class at 2:30, at which point he will meet his mom by the front office, eat the bagel with cream cheese she’s bringing for him as a snack, and set off for the theater to get ready for opening night. Though many of his schoolmates have not been able to secure tickets to tonight’s show due to other commitments like basketball practice and Girl Scouts meetings, there’s a good chance that they will be able to catch it at some point during its four week run, or possibly at one of the free Sunday matinees the troupe will be putting on at a local retirement center. If not, Caleb says he’ll have a digital recording of the show that he can email to anyone who wants to see it.
Seems like everything’s looking up for Caleb. While he’ll surely be exhausted at school tomorrow morning after his long night of captivating a paying audience, it will all be worth it once it leads to a life of stardom on the silver screen. This kid is headed to the big time for sure, and his classmates better get his autograph now before he inevitably heads off to Hollywood!