CARROLLWOOD — Like many professional actors on the go, Sebastian Hagelstein had just 15 minutes for a telephone interview. He and the troupe were about to depart for the next stop on the 80-city national tour of The Music Man.
Eighty cities, 80 days, including an opening Wednesday at the Lakeland Center's Youkey Theatre. The schedule sounds exhausting, but there's no hint of weariness in Sebastian's voice.
Perhaps it's because he has more energy than most; he's only 10 years old.
Although the Carrollwood community theater veteran says he was a little nervous during the opening performance Jan. 15 in Frostburg, Md., he loved the experience.
"It was pretty reassuring,'' he said, sounding rather mature. ''Everyone was professional, and everything was realistic, and everybody seemed to know their part.''
Sebastian plays Winthrop, the little brother of librarian Marian Paroo. She's the love interest of Professor Harold Hill, the con artist band organizer in the Meredith Willson play known for the hits Seventy-six Trombones and Till There Was You.
Sebastian, a member of the Carrollwood Cultural Center's Broadway Kids youth theater group, played the same part last year in the community production. After the run ended, Sebastian and his parents, Ed and Georgia Hagelstein, flew to New York so he could audition for Windwood Productions' traveling version of the play. A few weeks later, they received notice he had won the part. Rehearsals began in December.
"Sebastian has an ability that could really take him far,'' says Paul Berg, executive director of the Carrollwood Cultural Center. Berg played Harold Hill in the Carrollwood production.
"He puts thought into what he's doing, and a lot of children when they're acting don't do that. They get up on stage and they think that that's all there is to it,'' Berg said.
Berg recalls how hard Sebastian worked on Winthrop's heavy lisp, practicing his lines without the lisp at first, then incorporating it in another run-through. "And he nailed it.''
Sebastian says speaking with a lisp wasn't the hardest part. "Singing with a lisp — that was a little more of a challenge.''
Performing since age 6, Sebastian has appeared in the title role of Oliver!; as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol; as Randy in A Christmas Story; and as young Ben in an independent film, Ben Burgess.
He likes acting because he gets to meet nice people and make new friends, he said, "and maybe after a solo, you get lots of applause, and it makes you feel good.''
Sebastian's mother is traveling with him. A tutor with the company helps the boy keep up with his assignments from Lee Academy for Gifted Education in North Tampa.
"I'm having a blast seeing him experience all this neat stuff,'' Georgia Hagelstein said.
Nearly four years ago, she first brought up the prospect of Sebastian auditioning for a local play. The dental hygienist says her former boss, a community theater volunteer, suggested he try out for Oliver!
She was surprised by her son's response. "I just mentioned it one night at dinner,'' Georgia related, "and he said, 'Sure.'
"He has not stopped since.''
Reach Philip Morgan at (813) 226-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.