Caroline Howard has been onstage locally for most of her young life.
She has moved audiences with her versatile dancing, mature acting and powerful voice. Now the 10-year-old is taking her talents to the Big Apple.
Caroline will take part in a benefit concert Monday in New York City celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof.
The event, produced by the National Yiddish Theatre — Folksbiene, will bring together the largest-ever reunion of Fiddler alumni from stage and film. Caroline will be part of a children's chorus and share the stage with legends like lyricist Sheldon Harnick and actors Chaim Topol and Pia Zadora.
The benefit concert at the Town Hall, in the heart of the Manhattan theater district, will be Caroline's most prestigious gig. She will take the stage for three group songs, including Sunrise, Sunset.
"I think it will feel really cool to get in front of everyone and perform and do what I love to do," she said.
Philip Carrubba, a spokesman for the show, called "Raising the Roof 2014," said Caroline is part of a big event that will also celebrate the National Yiddish Theatre's 100th season and Harnick's 90th birthday.
"It's going to be a great opportunity for her," he said. "It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event."
Caroline has traveled to New York to audition for roles. She did not win the roles but got close. So it means a lot to her to get a part in this benefit concert. She was recommended for the job this time and didn't have to audition.
"It's awesome," she said, grinning.
Linda Switzer thinks it's about time Caroline hit the big stage. She has worked as her voice teacher for four years and has watched her snag roles in St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Sarasota and Naples.
Switzer remembers their first meeting. She said the youngster had a "lovely voice" and a winning personality.
"She's very intelligent," Switzer said. "She also has talent. What I love about Caroline is that she prepares like an adult."
Switzer has worked with many students in the Tampa area over the years. Some have made it big, such as Brittany Snow, who had roles in the movies Hairspray and Pitch Perfect, and Milly and Abigail Shapiro, who have appeared on Broadway.
Switzer, who runs the Florida Arts School in Tampa, said Caroline has the skills to succeed, too.
Caroline got her start in the arts the way many kids do: Her parents thought it would be cute to see her in a tutu.
Her father, Mike, who works in financial services, and mother, Whitney, who's a physical therapist, enrolled their 3-year-old in a dance class at the Theatre Arts & Dance Alliance in Lithia.
Around that time, Caroline also began watching her parents' VHS tapes of musicals like Annie. She watched them over and over and over. When Annie came to Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Howard family was in the audience.
"She was mesmerized and loved every second of it," Whitney Howard said. "She said, 'Mom, I want to do that.' "
A friend got them information on local community theater groups. In no time, Caroline started winning bigger and better roles.
Others outside Florida noticed the youngster's talent, too.
At age 6, she made it into the top 25 during an audition in New York for the national tour of Annie. She has also tried out for roles in Matilda and Billy Elliott.
In addition to a voice teacher, Caroline has a manager and an agent. These days, she also earns a paycheck for some of her work on the stage. Her parents have set that money aside for her future.
Caroline would love a career on the stage, preferably in New York City.
"I absolutely love it," said the Valrico Academy student. "I love all the lights and stuff in Times Square. It's not ordinary. It's a lot different. It's very busy, and I like that."
Monica Bennett cam be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.