Two identical twin boys from Frederick and a fifth-grade boy from Rockville -- all three seasoned stage troupers -- are rotating the role of Amahl in Gian Carlo Menotti's opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors" 16 times in six days at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
The Amahl marathon began last night when Gregory Lofts, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at the Thomas Johnson Middle School in Frederick, and Derek West, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at the Norwood School in Bethesda, opened in the 7 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. shows in the Eisenhower Theater.
Tonight, Gregory's twin, Stephen, plays Amahl in the 7 p.m. show, and Gregory sings at 8:45 p.m. The shows, an hour long, continue at 7 and 8:45 p.m. through Friday. The shows are at 1, 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and at 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday.
Stephen sings twice on Saturday, Gregory twice on Sunday. Altogether Gregory sings the role 6 times and the other two boys five each.
The boys are trebles, which for boys is a much cooler way of saying boy sopranos, especially since, according to their mothers Barbara Lofts and Betsy West, they mix it up back home in normal everyday baseball, basketball, football games with their older brothers.
But they are also singers. According to one Kennedy Center patron who observed recent rehearsals, the three are so enthusiastic they never stop rehearsing. "They each pantomime the singing and movements at the back of the rehearsal hall during run-throughs for other cast members."
"Gregory has always had a talent for singing," said Barbara Lofts. "When he was 6 he sang in a wedding. His voice is more mature than Steve's. Steve also has a nice voice but I think he is a more natural actor than Greg."
Steve joined the Frederick Children's Chorus last year after seeing how much fun Gregory had there. The Lofts have been Fagin's boys in "Oliver" and played in "Li'l Abner" and in the Maryland Lyric Opera's "The Little Chimney Sweep." Their father, Richard Lofts Jr., is an Air Force major.
The third Amahl, Derek West, is simultaneously rehearsing as one of three genies in the Washington Opera Company's "The Magic Flute" opening Dec. 29. He's been in "South Pacific," "Oliver," "Peter Pan" and "Annie Get Your Gun," said Betsy West, whose husband, Marty West 3d, is a developer.
"The hard thing about Amahl," she added, "is that the singers have to pick up the right notes on their own. It's a lot more intense. And they have to learn to walk with a crutch. But the boys love it."
Menotti is directing the one-act classic Christmas opera, the most produced opera in American history. Stephen Crout is conducting. Tickets are $7.50-$28 and are available at the box office. Or call Instant-Charge (202) 467-4600.