His dad is the principal pops conductor for the Omaha Symphony. His mom is the director of Résonance, a vocal ensemble.

It only makes sense that Liam Richardson, 10, also is musical. He takes violin lessons and studies voice at the Omaha Conservatory of Music.

And this year, like several years before it, he’s in the symphony’s Christmas Celebration at the Holland Center with his parents, Ernest Richardson and Tara Cowherd. The production premieres Thursday and runs through Sunday.



Something’s a bit different this year, however. It’s the first year that Liam, a fifth grader at Hillside Elementary School, has had a solo and a speaking part.

He plays a character with whom he coincidentally shares a first name in “Finding Christmas,” a short musical that’s staged within the concert. The musicals have become a tradition in the symphony’s holiday event. His character is having doubts about Christmas, and some North Pole inhabitants come to the rescue. Liam gets to perform with a cute dog, Toby, and Broadway singer and actor Siri Howard plays his mom.

Liam prepared extensively to audition for the part.

“I practiced nonstop after school,” he said.

It worked, because he was one of four children who got callbacks. He’s officially the understudy, sharing the role with another boy. New York City-based choreographer Parker Esse is the show’s director, and handled the tryouts.

“My favorite thing is probably the first show, and getting the feeling that you’re going to be onstage in front of a 2,000-seat theater,” Liam said.

He doesn’t get stage fright. He focuses on the director or, if he’s playing the violin, his fingers, he said.

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The senior Richardson built the symphony’s Christmas show from a few carols and singers to the major production it is today, with storytelling, set pieces, dancing reindeer and accomplished Broadway performers.

It features updates and changes each year, including new arrangements this season. One of the most notable is an uptempo, big-band version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with former television personality Dave Webber.

This year, there’s a set that’s reminiscent of “Downton Abbey,” and the show also has a bit with “two amazing tap dancers” that’s based on a scene from the movie “White Christmas,” a Richardson family favorite, Richardson said.

“We play ‘White Christmas’ while we’re putting up the tree,” he said, though that may not be on the same timeline as most people. Because the family is so busy until right before Christmas, they’re often celebrating the holiday closer to the New Year.

“We observe the 12 Days of Christmas,” Richardson joked.

Cowherd is the executive director of Resonance, an Omaha group that has sung at the symphony Christmas show for a number of years. She, too, has a special role in the symphony show this year; she’s singing a duet of “Silent Night” with Howard.

All three Richardsons are thrilled to be together onstage. It might be the start of something big for Liam, who hopes to continue performing as he grows older.

“I love acting,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite things.”

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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