Now playing at NSMT through Saturday, Oct. 7

Published in the September 27, 2017 edition

LYNNFIELD RESIDENT ISABELLA “BELLA” CARROLL, 10, sings a solo to Eva Peron in “Evita,” now playing at North Shore Music Theatre through Saturday, Oct. 7. (Courtesy Photo)


BEVERLY — A 10-year-old girl from Lynnfield — Isabella “Bella” Carroll — had the distinguished honor to sing a solo for “Eva” Peron when she appeared as a child in “Evita,” at North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) on opening night Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Bella’s performances will continue through Saturday, Oct. 7 when the show closes.

In 2014, when she was just seven-years-old, her mother Paula Farese saw that NSMT was featuring Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in their children’s summer slot. 

Farese decided that this would be the perfect way to celebrate Bella’s seventh birthday — by treating her and a few of her friends and their moms to a performance of “The Little Mermaid” at the theater. 

Farese met with Karen Nascembeni, NSMT’s general manager, to talk about a private meeting space to host a pre-show birthday party. During their tour of rehearsal Studio 2 where the party would take place, Farese mentioned to Nascembeni that her daughter liked to sing and wondered if she should be bringing her to NSMT’s local auditions.

In response, Nascembeni said, “Would you like to see how the process works?” 

Studio One happened to be set up for auditions, so Nascembeni took Bella and her mother down the hall to the audition space. She had Bella stand in the center of the room and took her place at the audition table while Farese watched anxiously from the wings. 

“What would you like to sing for me today?” asked Nascembeni. Without missing a beat, a confident, but now ever so slightly nervous Bella said, “Part of Your World” (from “The Little Mermaid”).

Nascembeni listed intently and said, “Hmm . . . you have an interesting voice. I love your vibrato. I think you have something here. With the right training, you could be a good fit for musical theater.” 

Nascembeni then suggested that Farese call vocal coach Noel Smith, owner of Noel Smith Voice Studio in Lynnfield, to see if she might have an opening to work with Bella. 

“She’s booked pretty solid and I’m not sure if she works with young kids, but she’s the best in the area,” said Nascembeni. “Her students come to our auditions incredibly prepared. Give her a try.” 

Farese immediately contacted Smith who told her she did not take students that young and referred her to another coach. Farese then said, “Karen Nascembeni from NSMT referred me to you.” 

And Smith replied, “What time can you be here today?” 

So began Bella’s work with Smith. 

Fast forward three years when Smith asked Nascembeni if she could rent NSMT’s Backstage Bistro to host her student Vocal Showcase for their annual “Musical Hysterics” show. 

When Smith told Nascembeni that her students charge admission and have to choose a charity to donate to, Nascembeni suggested “To Show We Care,” a charity that raises money to send people going through cancer treatment to a complimentary night at the theater. 

“To Show We Care’s” founder, Stephen Tyler of Gloucester had just recently spoken to Nascembeni about a young cancer patient who had completed treatment and was taken with her experience at the theater. He asked Nascembeni if he might underwrite her to attend one of NSMT’s education classes. Nascembeni designated the money raised at the Vocal Showcase to send this little girl to theater classes at NSMT. 

At the Vocal Showcase, one of the featured students was Bella Carroll. Nascembeni hadn’t seen her perform since that informal audition three years before.

Bella performed two numbers that day, one of which was “Born to Entertain” from “Ruthless,” a musical complete with a new costume for each number. 

“I was blown away!” said Nascembeni. “I couldn’t believe the belting that came out of this beautiful little now 10-year-old girl. She had such poise and confidence. I knew it was only a matter of time before she made it to our main stage,” said Nascembeni.  

Over the past few years, Bella, also the daughter of Jeff Carroll, has shown up to audition for several NSMT productions. Finally, when NSMT was casting a child for “Evita,” Bella knew she had to go for it. When Farese got the call that Bella was going to be offered the role of one of two little girls cast in “Evita,” she was in shock. 

“I was speechless. I actually cried,” said Farese, also the mother of son Anthony, 13.

Smith said that working with Bella was a joy.

“She’s the youngest person I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “I took a chance on her.”

Generally, Smith works with high school students bound for college to study musical theater, but there was something about Bella she found hard to resist.

“It was something about her spirit and energy,” said Smith. “It’s so exciting to see her achieve.

To her credit, she’s adorable, talented, a hard worker and she’s kind. There’s a sense of innocence about her. I find her refreshing.”

A few weeks from now, Bella will be back on the soccer field and back to community theater within Lynnfield schools under the direction of Becky Petrin.

Until then, she will bask in the limelight while remaining ever so humble.

“Bella’s vocal talent is a gift from God,” said Farese. “We truly are humbled. She’s had great support from everyone, including her teachers.”

Bella Carroll will be playing the child role in all of the evening performances for the two-week run of “Evita.” She continues to study voice with Noel Smith of Lynnfield and at the New England Conservatory of Music.

“Evita” runs at North Shore Music Theatre from Sept. 26-Oct. 8. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 978-232-7200 or the box office at 62 Dunham Rd., Beverly.