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Allie's edge - Young actress's ability to focus helps her land roles

Date: 06/28/2010

The Hamilton Spectator
Allie's edge
Young actress's ability to focus helps her land roles

(Jun 25, 2010)
Need to Know

What: Miss Saigon

When: July 9 to Aug. 1; performances Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

Where: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., Toronto

Tickets: $28 to $175; Purchase online at or call 1-866-950-7469.

Boy, oh boy!  Girlie girl Alessandra Crisante-Crespo is preparing for her second acting gig as a member of the opposite gender.

The six-year-old Hamiltonian, who's mad for all things pink, made her first appearance as a boy in Opera Hamilton's 2009 production of Madama Butterfly.

She played Dolore, Butterfly's son by the loutish Lieutenant Pinkerton.

In a couple of weeks, Allie starts rehearsing as Tam, the Vietnamese son of the title character, in a new Toronto production of the musical Miss Saigon, which is based on Puccini's opera.

This time, she has to cut her long, shiny, jet black hair, but even that doesn't put her off portraying a boy, which she once called "neat."

"I'm going to cut my hair and donate it," she announces proudly.

That happens just four days before the July 9 opening of Dancap Productions' month-long run at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Allie will share the role with Toronto's Chloe Stanford, also six, one of about 40 other boys and girls of Asian heritage who auditioned for the nonspeaking part in April. Each girl will perform in half of the 25 scheduled shows.

They will play opposite Ma-Anne Dionisio (Kim/Miss Saigon) and Kevin Gray (The Engineer), who are reprising their roles from the original Toronto production that opened in 1993.

(Mirvish Productions built the Princess of Wales Theatre specifically to accommodate the massive sets and helicopter used in the two-year run of Miss Saigon, which was seen by 1.4 million people.)

Ever since Allie's three performances in Butterfly, she'd been pestering her parents about being in another show someday.

The Grade 1 student in the Mandarin immersion program at Prince Philip School loves dancing, singing and acting, and plans to try out for the Hamilton Children's Choir when she's old enough.

"I knew there was another show coming up for me," says Allie, who calls her Butterfly opening "the most excitingest day of my life, besides for birthdays and parties."

She was proved right when her dad, photographer Jose Crespo, saw a newspaper ad calling for children to audition for Tam -- essentially the same role she'd played in Butterfly.

"What are the odds?" says Crespo, whose daughter was one of about half a dozen kids to get a callback.

Crespo and his wife, art teacher Sandra Grisante, say they think Allie got the part because she is very focused for her age, a trait that does her well in school, too.

"I think they see that she's capable and bright and mature," says Sandra.

Show publicist Carrie Sager says the director would have been looking at the children's stage presence, their chemistry with Ma-Anne and their ease of movement.

Allie, however, says with characteristic aplomb, "I think they thought I was participating well and doing the right thing I was told to do. What I'm told to do is what I'm supposed to do and what I'm supposed to do is the right thing to do."

So there.

Allie's mom and dad say they have no intention of becoming stage parents or pushing their daughter into endless shows and productions.

"Maybe a commercial here and there," speculates Jose.

"We'll wait and see," says a circumspect Sandra. "It's nice that she's proud of herself. Why not rejoice in the good things about yourself?

"Our job as parents is to keep things in check," she says sagely. "I just want her to be happy and have a balanced life."