Ben Cook

Lorton Native takes on Broadway in ‘Billy Elliot’ Lead Role

Lorton Native takes on Broadway in ‘Billy Elliot’ Lead Role

By Lindsay Palmer

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Cook

This 14-year-old knows the value of seizing the moment. A few years ago, Ben Cook was simply following his sisters onto the dance floor at their dance lessons. Today, he’s on the tail end of a six-month, 11-city, national tour with the Tony Award-winning musical “Billy Elliot,” as Billy Elliot. “I would describe it as really magical,” Ben says in perfect earnestness, but he has certainly put in his work for the role.

Originally from Lorton, Ben found himself at his sisters’ dance lessons at the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center (MFAC), where instructor Melissa Dobbs first encountered him. “He was such a fiery, excited kid,” that Dobbs says she took him on as a dance student, and later, a vocal student. Ben was 7 years old.

At the MFAC, Dobbs worked privately with Ben, and she “gave him courage to continue by believing in him,” and helping him hire his first agent at the age of 9. “She helped me practice, and told me to go for it,” Ben says. And, surprisingly enough, “as time went on, I just got better.”

With an agent helping him find auditions, taking the step from voice and dance lessons into acting wasn’t a stretch. When he was 9, Ben landed the role of Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol,” and a year later was in the Broadway production of “Ragtime.” At the age of 10, Ben had two professional plays under his belt. But he isn’t in it for his name in lights. I want new theatre experiences and to meet new people,” says the boy with an undying drive to keep auditioning that has found him his current gig.

After holding the role of Michael in “Billy Elliot” last year, Ben stepped up to play Billy this summer. “When you’re acting, you’re in the moment. It’s so real. I love being able to act as a different person, in different circumstances,” Ben explains, and “in ‘Billy Elliot,’ we’re all one big family.”

Loving what he does, and loving the team he’s on, Ben values “getting to travel the country at such a young age,” and enjoys every step of this tour. “Not only have I made such good friends, but we also get to do so much together. Like, we get to do press events with each other.”

But with all the professional responsibility expected of him on the road, he throws in a reminder that he’s 14 years old, animatedly sharing that “on our days off in each new city, we get to do fun things, like go to Six Flags.”

Catch Ben Cook as “Billy Elliot” Dec. 18-30 in Baltimore, Md., and Feb. 1-3, 2013 in Richmond.



(November 2012)