There was nothing remarkable about the tiny girl with the intense eyes and the spindly legs.

Not then, anyway.

Today, though, former Cincinnatian Sarah Jessica Parker is a one-woman entertainment powerhouse: singer, winner of dozens of acting awards, producer, celebrity. She has her own line of clothes. And her own signature perfume.

But from 1974 to 1976, she was only one among dozens of “other” kids — the ones you look past to see the stars on stage — in the Cincinnati Ballet’s first three seasons of producing The Nutcracker.

Sarah, ages 9 to 11 during that run, was too young and small to play Clara, the ballet’s leading role.

So, instead of Clara’s beribboned party frock, Sarah donned an enormous gray stuffed headpiece, climbed into a bulbous costume and stepped onto the Music Hall stage as a ... rodent.

“Sarah was very excited, of course,” recalls her mother, Barbara Forste, who now lives in New Jersey. “As a baby mouse, when the clock struck midnight she had to stand on her head and pat her feet together. She took it very seriously as something she had to work on.”

Forste says The Nutcracker was a delight for her family. (Sarah has three full siblings and four half-siblings. Timothy Britten “Toby” Parker, Pippin Parker and Aaron Forste have enjoyed their own success in the dramatic arts world.)

“The Cincinnati Ballet Company production was very exciting for us all, including our younger children who, as audience members, were completely mesmerized by the magic,” Sarah’s mother recalls.

Forste credits much of her daughter’s love of the stage, and her serious attitude, to David McLain and David Blackburn, artistic director and associate artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet in the 1970s and early ’80s. “She loved them,” Forste says. “We called them ‘The Davids.’ They had such high expectations of all the children in the show.” Lessons learned from the duo “have stayed with her all her life.”
Sarah jessica
Sarah — born in Nelsonville, Ohio, in 1965 — attended the Clifton School and the School for the Creative and Performing Arts during her Cincinnati years. A favorite song of hers — “Nothing” from A Chorus Line — is a painful reminder to Jack Louiso, who was just starting as the SCPA’s artistic director.

“I don’t think I’d ever heard a fourth-grader sing a song like that,” he says, recalling her rendition of that tune when she tried out for The Music Man. “She was brilliant.”

But others on the SCPA casting panel differed about who should play Amaryllis. Not giving Sarah that chance “was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life,” Louiso says. “She could have done the role cold. But in some ways, it’s probably the best thing that could have happened for her. Look where she is now.”

Playhouse in the Park also played a part in the Sarah Jessica Parker story. Her stepfather, Paul Forste, was in the cast of Where’s Charley? there. Her mother says one afternoon, Sarah heard Fred Goldrich, the show’s musical director, noodling “Nothing” on a stage piano. “She walked up to him and said, ‘You’re playing my audition song.’” Goldrich worked with her on it. Later, when Sarah went to New York, she had to sing in an audition. “She called Fred and he played it for her. She got the role.”

That was in 1976, and the girl soon to be known as Sarah Jessica — the stage name she chose when she joined the Actors Equity Association — was 11. By that fall she was on Broadway in a brief run of The Innocents. Just before her 14th birthday, Sarah stepped on a Broadway stage as the third young lady to perform the title role of Annie.

As her fans know, that led to a TV series (Square Pegs), small parts in movies and other projects. Today, thanks to her leading role in Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker is one of that handful of entertainment royalty who can make things happen, from an art-oriented reality show on Bravo! (she’s producing), to starring in a film with Hugh Grant or spearheading a second Sex and the City feature film.

And she leaves lasting impressions here.

“She stood out,” recalls Sandy Underwood. “It wasn’t because she was beautiful or graceful or anything like that.”

Underwood was the official photographer for the Cincinnati Ballet then, and has served in that capacity for 35 years at Playhouse in the Park. After she took rehearsal photos of Sarah, she was asked to do theatrical portraits of all the Parker/Forste children.

“When I took Sarah’s picture, I saw it again,” Underwood remembers.

“Look at the portrait. There is something about it that that says ...” She pauses for a moment. “I asked her when I was doing her pictures what did she want to do with her life. ‘I’m going to be an actress,’ she said. She was just 11. But I didn’t doubt it for a minute.”