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TEANECK GIRL, 9, TO TOUR WITH 'LES MIZ'

Record - 9/18/2017

Sophie Knapp launched her career in show business all because she had a speech delay as a toddler.

"Her speech therapist noticed that she was very musical and suggested a voice coach," said her mother, Chavie Knapp, an attorney turned stay-at-home mom.

By age 4, Sophie was signed up with an agent and was going to auditions.

She landed a role in "The Little Mermaid" at Helen Hayes Youth Theater at age 4, and made her Broadway debut at age 6, when she was cast as Ivanka in the Tony-winning musical "Once."

These days, the Teaneck resident is busy rehearsing her lines and belting out tunes with the crew from the national tour of "Les Misérables." Sophie will play the part of young Cosette and Eponine (a role she shares with actress Zoe Glick of New York) in a show that opens Sept. 21 in Providence, Rhode Island, and travels to more than 20 cities across the country.

Not too shabby for a kid who only just turned 9.

In a phone interview from her hotel room in Providence, Sophie explained that singing has always been her favorite hobby, and that evolved into a stage career.

"When I was a little baby, I used to hum a lot because I'd listen to music and I'd be very happy. When I was 4, my mother said, 'Why don't you try a singing lesson?' My singing teacher said I should start auditioning. When I was 5 I auditioned for 'Once' and I got it," she said, her voice revealing her glee even years later.

Other credits include Madeline and George in "Dream Street," the title role in "Madeline's Christmas," and the Off-Broadway production of "A Little Princess."

Although she currently has a rigorous schedule of rehearsals, tutoring (with a teacher who instructs child actors on the road), and costume changes, the well-spoken Sophie sounds like she's on top of the world when describing her "Les Miz" experience.

"I love being onstage and singing. I love being with the cast and crew. When I'm up there, it's so much fun. I'm really not nervous at all. It's my thing," she said. "I love signing autographs at the end of the show." She said she wants to sign as many autographs as she can "so that people will remember me."

But she says there's is one night a week when she refrains from pulling out a pen to scribble her John Hancock. "I don't sign autographs on Shabbos [the Jewish Sabbath] because we're Jewish," she said.

A competitive life in the limelight might seem to be at odds with the quiet life she leads at her yeshiva day school in New Jersey, where Sophie wears demure, knee-length skirts, recites prayers from a Hebrew text and studies the Bible.

But her mother, who insists that she and her husband, Stephen, are not typical "stage parents," appears very comfortable with her daughter's "extracurricular activity," although it may be considered unusual in their circles.

"The theater community has been very supportive for her," said Knapp, who often travels with her daughter as a chaperone (as does Sophie's grandmother). "There's always supervision. There's great role models. I'm really happy with the friends she has made and the people she has learned from."

Jack McLeod, production stage manager for the national tour of "Les Misérables," said he was immediately impressed by Sophie's passion for live theater and "willingness to take direction."

"She's inquisitive and asks many questions about her character choices and actions. She's a little sponge and soaks up everything," he said.

He added that the adult cast members adore Sophie. "There's a constant amount of hugging daily with Sophie and her adult colleagues."

Bess Marie Glorioso, the production stage manager for "Once," added that Sophie is unique because of her "spunky personality" and she "absorbs everything like a sponge. ... She's a very well-behaved child who got along with everyone," she said.

Sophie acknowledges that being a star is more complex than a stroll on the red carpet. It's also a lot of hard work. The toughest part, she said "is memorizing all of the lines, and making it look natural." Also, there's knowing where to stand, and when to get onstage and off. "You have to memorize all of that in your head."

Then there are the auditions, which can be demoralizing. But Sophie, with the wisdom of a seasoned professional, asserts that aspiring actors mustn't get upset if they are rejected.

"It doesn't mean they don't like you," she said. "It just means you are not the right person for that part ... there will always be something else for you."

 
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