All the world’s a stage for Kaden
Kaden McMillion starts on a world tour next month with the Broadway hit Beauty and the Beast.
It's a dream come true for the eight-year-old, who's only acted professionally for a year.
His Bermudian mother Tonika Burgess-McMillion believes his love of reading gave him a good start.
“From the beginning I knew there was something special about him,” she said. “He learnt to read at four, and always did it with so much expression. As he went on to chapter books, he started to show even more expression.”
Kaden will play Chip Potts in the stage musical adaptation of the Disney film. The role has him transformed into a teacup by an enchantress' spell.
The first show is in Cairo, Egypt on October 7. Dubai, Africa, China, Singapore and Italy are among the many countries Kaden will visit before the musical ends its run on September 26, 2016.
It's a big undertaking for the actor, whose experience is limited to a television show, a yet-to-be-screened movie and a television commercial. He'd never seen Beauty and the Beast before his New York audition.
“I've always wanted to be in acting,” said Kaden, who has a year of acting classes and two years of piano lessons under his belt. “Piano, acting and modelling are my three favourite things to do.”
Hundreds of children auditioned for the part. Kaden said he gave it his best shot.
“I wasn't scared at all,” he said. “I was ready. I had to act and dance and sing for the audition. I sang Annie's Tomorrow.”
Ms Burgess-McMillion left the Island for Atlanta, Georgia in 2004. She taught kindergarten for 12 years, and homeschooled Kaden and his six-year-old sister Kenzie.
Both are interested in acting although her daughter is still “a bit young”, Ms Burgess-McMillion said.
“I signed Kaden up for acting class and the coach was asking what I was doing,” she said. “He said he wasn't being challenged enough in his age group. I explained he was homeschooled and catches on fast and that I let him read as much as he wants. The coach was amazed.”
She took Kaden to a talent expo in hopes of getting him signed with an agent.
“He got 13 callbacks,” she said. “So it was very challenging to determine which agency to go to.”
They decided on Slamm Management — and then Broadway International came calling with a dream role.
“He'd never sung in public before in his life,” Ms Burgess-McMillion said. “He had two days to learn his script and then he had to find a song.
“The next day we flew from New York back to Atlanta and found out they'd spent the whole time while we were travelling trying to get in touch with us to say he had the role. Normally it takes a couple of weeks before you hear back.”
After all their hard work, she “sat on a couch and cried” when she got the news; Kaden was “elated”. “The acting coach said it normally takes years to get to Broadway,” said Ms Burgess-McMillion, who will accompany her son throughout the tour. “[Kaden] threw up his arms saying ‘Yes!' and at one point wanted to go look at mansions and luxury cars. We immediately sat down and had a talk about how he needs to save and that we would be going to the bank to open a trust fund. Also, the importance of saving for his education.
“He's never been outside the States except for one trip to Bermuda so it's all very exciting but hasn't quite hit me yet.”
She and Kaden leave for rehearsals in New York on September 30. Kenzie will stay with family in Atlanta.
“This is the hardest part of all,” Ms Burgess-McMillion said. “But this is Kaden's dream. My mom will be moving to Atlanta this month from Bermuda to assist with [Kenzie's] everyday needs. She has been very brave finding out about the great news. I signed her up for French, piano and gymnastic classes to keep her busy this year and she loves school.
“Actually Kaden and Kenzie skipped a school grade level this past January so academically they're good. I have been reassured that Kaden will have the best tutors while on tour so I'm very grateful for that.”
Ms Burgess-McMillion said she has no idea where her children's talent comes from. Neither she nor their father sing, dance or act.
“All I can say is I always taught them myself,” she said. “I taught Kaden to focus on expression as he was reading — and there's nothing shy about him. I'm a very proud mom. The acting coach said after this year he'll just blow up. I can't imagine what will happen then.”
• Watch out for Kaden in Birthday with the Greenbergs, expected to hit the big screen in three months' time.