It’s a Thursday in mid-October, and 9-year-old Saara Chaudry is between shows at the downtown Princess of Wales Theatre.
She’s squirming with excitement, clasping her hands, holding them to her chest, and affixed to her face is a Cheshire grin.
Quite the contrast from her role of young Cosette, a thin and pale victim of abusive innkeepers, in the Mirvish production of Les Misérables.
“I’m excited,” she whispers, as her mom Duriya Patel enters the large room behind the theatre’s box office.
Saara swings her legs back and forth while she sits on a chair. She’s ready to share how she won the roles of Cosette and young Eponine, with two other young actresses, Madison Oldroyd and Ella Ballentine.
After several auditions, actually, starting on Aug. 19.
“I was really lucky because I was one of the first kids to go into the audition room,” she says. “Then Stephanie Gorin, the casting director, said that she liked my performance, she asked for my mom to come and she said I would have to have a call-back, and I was really excited.
“She asked my mom if I could sing for the press, and I was really excited to do that,” the Casa Loma resident adds. “I wasn’t nervous at all to sing for the press because I knew I had a call-back and it was fun to watch myself on the TV.”
When the song and dance was over, it wasn’t Saara who first found out she landed the role. It was her mother.
“I was at school when she found out, and I had my talent show that day,” she says, adding she sang Bruno Mars’ “Count On Me” to classmates at the York School. “I won the talent show, so I was already excited and happy, and then I had an audition at my agent’s office.
“He was like, ‘Would getting the role of Cosette in Les Mis be a dream come true?’ and ‘I was like, ‘Yeah’, and he said, ‘Well your dream just came true’.”
Her agent is Norbert Abrams, of Noble Caplan Abrams in Summerhill. He came into her service when her mother found out Saara has talent.
“I’ve always had a passion for the arts, and when I was younger my brother (Daanyal) and sister (Emaan) always used to tease me, saying I was a drama queen,” Saara says. “Finally my mom looked into getting an agent, and here I am.”
Patel chuckles, and repeats her daughter’s “Finally”. She adds she never thought placing a 4-year-old Saara in Royal Conservatory of Music piano lessons, or ballet at the National Ballet of Canada, or even signing her up for the Toronto Children’s Choir would lead to a stage role.
“It would probably have not been my first choice, because it’s not something I envisioned, but she led us to it,” Patel admits.
Saara leans forward, with an impish grin, and whispers, “I love it.”
Her success is coming in bushels, as she also landed a TV role as summer camper Madison on the iconic Canadian series Degrassi.
“It was cool,” she says of the TV gig, adding a lot of the actors offered her sage advice.
Saara’s inspiration has come in the form of her Les Misérables castmates.
“Now that I’ve got to know Melissa O’Neil a lot better — I had seen her on Canadian Idol — I feel like her voice is so powerful and expressive, and I hope to grow up to be as good as her,” she says.
For now, she’s enjoying the royal treatment, and adds she awaits what the future holds.
“I am the youngest in the cast,” she says, with a giggle. “Even though the kids are still older than me, they treat me equally, and it’s not like, ‘Oh, you’re the baby’,” she coos.
“I really want this to be the one door that opens, but once this closes I keep on going, and many more doors open for me.”