Misty Irwin was a young child and not growing as fast as her peers. Her parents learned she had dwarfism and would never reach the normal range of adult height.
“My parents, they didn’t hide it from me,” Irwin said. “They didn’t want to do that. They educated me and made it easier for me to understand it and accept it. They taught me … you can do anything if you put your mind to it, no matter your height or anything.”
Her height (4 feet 3 inches) didn’t prevent — and may have helped — the Baton Rouge resident make it to New York City. And, as the song goes, if you can make it there …
Irwin, 22, is performing in this year’s Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. She is one of four little people — as those with dwarfism prefer to be called — selected for a role in the annual musical, which opened on Nov. 8 and runs through Dec. 30.
Irwin’s roles — as an elf in a department store Christmas scene, one of Santa’s helpers at the North Pole and a baby bear in the “Nutcracker” scene — are one of four in her cast reserved for little people. Radio City Music Hall regularly uses little people in its Christmas shows, something Irwin discovered when she was 11 and attended a convention for little people. Radio City used such conventions to audition for parts in the show. Though too young to audition, she watched the tryouts and set this as an eventual goal.
“Ever since then, I was, like, I really want to try out for this,” Irwin said. “You have to be 18 to try out, and when I was 18 I went to college and just put it off. Finally, I moved back home, and last year I flew to New York in March and tried out at Radio City in New York City.”
She was one of 40 to 50 auditioning, and Irwin got a phone call in June letting her know she’d been selected. She moved to New York City in September, three weeks before rehearsals started, to acclimate herself.
“Baton Rouge is a small town compared to New York City, so I didn’t want to have culture shock all of a sudden right when I’m rehearsing,” she said.
There are three to six shows per day, and two casts. Irwin’s role gives her the opportunity to sing, dance and act.
“I actually get to solo. I have to learn everyone’s part on both casts,” she said. “Three out of the four people have singing and talking parts, so I had to learn all that and go into an actual recording studio, which was awesome. I felt like a celebrity. They had to record my voice just in case when I go in and my voice is cracked or something is wrong with it, they can play that instead of me having to force myself to sing. But on a normal day, I’m still going to sing.”
Irwin has taken dance lessons for 16 years and has performed as a singer often, so she is comfortable onstage. She also had a brief on-camera role as a parade-watcher in an episode of ABC’s television show, “Ravenswood,” earlier this year.
“I really enjoy it, and I would love to go way further in life with it,” she said.