101 Stories: Leo J. Northart III

By The Children's Theatre

Celebrate TCT’s 101st season as it comes to a close as we applaud and appreciate those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout our century-long journey.  During 10 weeks of recognition, we honor individuals who have been instrumental in the success of TCT, and who have not only helped TCT grow in mission, but also thrive, thanks to their passion.  It is these people and their moments in our history that shaped TCT to become what it is today. We encourage you to consider giving a gift in their honor to ensure the sustainability of TCT’s mission for the next 100+ years. 

Leo Northart as Santa Claus

Leo J. Northart III has been a significant part of The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati through the years, starting in 2007. He played the pivotal role of The Man In Red in seven TCT holiday shows, including The Day Before Christmas, Santa’s Toy Factory, all three Holiday Folliesproductions, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (twice)!  

Leo also appeared in TCT’s How I Became a Pirate (Braid Beard), Disney’s Aladdin JR.(Sultan), Disney’s Beauty and the Beast JR. (Maurice),  Robin Hood (Friar Tuck), Disney’s Mulan JR. (Laozi), and Seussical JR. (Horton); on the Showboat Majestic in …Forum (Psedulous), Shenandoah (Charlie Anderson), Where’s Charley (Sir Francis Chesney) and Oliver! (Fagin); and at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts in Annie (Daddy Warbucks), Fiddler…(Tevye), and Peter Pan (Smee).   

In addition, Leo spent time volunteering in the Box Office, answering phones, taking ticket orders, and helping with paperwork.  

Leo was a voice major at Indiana University’s School of Music. His favorite show ever is Camelot(King Arthur), where he met his wife, Mary, who played Guinevere.   

We caught up with Leo, who moved home to New Jersey in 2015: 

What prompted your involvement with TCT? 

I’ve always admired the work TCT did for the community and young artists. I was doing a production of Fiddler, and after a performance, a TCT staffer suggested that I might enjoy working with TCT and that I should come in to audition. The rest is history! 

Can you share a moment or turning point in your work with TCT that enhanced or changed the program? 

I’d always thought it would be a wonderful idea for TCT to host a Breakfast with Santa. I mentioned that to Jack and Susie Louiso (former Artistic and Executive Directors). Before I knew it, we were adding that into the yearly holiday season in addition to the Christmas show. I truly loved being able to interact with the children on a more one-on-one basis. In fact, I enjoyed the work I did as Santa with TCT so much; I came back for a final year in 2015 after I’d moved to New Jersey, just to be a part of it. 

Was there a particular situation where you witnessed the TCT mission specifically enhance the growth and development of children’s imagination or creativity? 

Every time we mounted a show, the professional way TCT approached every aspect of the show was clear. It was a wonderful learning experience for the youth and adult performers and technicians alike. The shows themselves were also a great benefit to the community, many times sharing a message of growth and inclusion that young and old could appreciate and learn from. It sparked thoughtful conversations well after the show ended, allowing families to discuss topics that were often very relevant to current situations. 

What do you love most or miss most about your work with TCT? 

I miss the opportunity to spend time with folks sharing a common goal and artistic vision. I miss being on stage and performing with such a common purpose. I miss the absolute joy of taking the stage with like-minded folks who just wanted to entertain and allow people to laugh, cry, cheer, and feel the wide range of emotions that only live theatre can bring. In each show, we could really bring them into our magical world of story, movement & music. 

What else would you like to share about your time at TCT? 

For me, TCT was an extraordinary artistic family.  Every time we stepped on the stage, we were all transported, both the performers on stage and our audience, to a whole new world. There is truly nothing like live theatre and the ability to be a part of something so much bigger than yourself that can move so many people and expose new audiences to what the arts can truly do. 

Would you honor Leo Northart with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?