PITTSFIELD — Berkshire singer-songwriter Mary Verdi has a tradition of inviting community members and professional artists of all ages to take part in her annual holiday show, but, she said, one boy, in particular, has grown to really help the show sparkle.
Aiden Betit, 12, a seventh-grader at St. Agnes Academy in Dalton, will appear onstage again this Saturday, for the sixth annual "The Mary Verdi Christmas Show," which will be held at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre.
Betit has been with the show since age 6, when Verdi asked him to join her sons and their friends to perform a song, "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas," as an ensemble called "The Neighborhood Gang."
"The kids were literally from my neighborhood. That's how I met Aiden," Verdi said. But once she got him on stage, she saw Betit as a natural performer.
Betit recalled that first show. "I liked it. It was pretty amazing," he said.
Since then, he's performed in several group, duo and solo skits, from leading Santa's sleigh as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to hamming it up in a skit inspired by Buddy from the movie, "Elf." For the past few years, he's also donned a Frosty the Snowman-style silk top hat and black tailcoat to help emcee the program.
"I really like performing," Betit told The Eagle in a recent interview.
"Aiden has a heart of gold. He is truly the essence of Christmas," says Verdi. "I enjoy working with him he's very sharp; I only have to tell him a direction one time. Plus he's really fun and gets into the holiday spirit backstage."
According to Aiden's mother, Christine Betit, the young man has always enjoyed entertaining friends and family with songs, skits, and original animations he's designed on his computer or tablet. He's also performed in shows at his school.
Aiden said he's always enjoyed the music and comedy of Disney shows and regularly watched "The Muppets" as a younger kid.
He said he works hard to memories the scripts Verdi gives him, and has learned how to improvise.
"One time, we were performing at the Red Lion Inn and in the middle of the song, everyone just forgot the words. All four of us just stood there until eventually we picked up the words again," Betit said.
Asked about stage fright, he said, "Sometimes, right before I go on, I get butterflies. But what's the worst thing that's going to happen? I just don't think about the crowd. I think of it like I'm at home rehearsing for a show," he said. "You have to make sure you're smiling because if you're frowning, the audience is going to be frowning too."
In addition to dressing up and signing, Betit said he's gotten to do cool stunts for the show, like riding a small motorbike across the stage. He said he also enjoys performing with the other kids.
"The children bring a magic to the show. When I'm watching the audience, everyone's face lights up when the children take the stage," Verdi said. This year's young performers include a troupe from Dalton Ballet Studio, a children's choir, and others. There will also be Verdi's band with guest Billy Keane, violinists from Berkshire Music School, Berkshire Concert Choir and other guests.
Said Christine Betit, "It's a great opportunity for all the kids, to be on stage and getting a feeling of what's it's like to be in front of people, and know it's OK to make mistakes. Mary's show is fantastic and it's nice to see how it engages people."