Note: Asher Ekhardt’s final show as Billy in the Des Moines Community Playhouse production of Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM) was on October 28, 2018.
Debut: October 5, 2018 (Des Moines, Iowa)
Total Performances as Billy: 9 (No partial shows)
Asher Ekhardt was 13 years old (d.o.b. 20-Oct-2004) when he made his debut as Billy Elliot on the Des Moines Playhouse stage. Asher is from Des Moines and is the eldest of four children born to Bill and Tracy Ekhardt. In addition to his musical theatre performing, Asher also enjoys playing the piano.
For the first 10 years of his life, Asher was primarily interested in playing soccer and it actually wasn’t until he turned 11 that he decided to attend his first dance class in Nov 2015. He had enjoyed singing and acting during summer camps presented by the Des Moines Playhouse and decided he should try some dance classes before possibly auditioning for local musicals. He didn’t love his first week in a musical theatre dance class, but the teacher convinced him to try ballet the following week and, after one class, Asher was sold. About a year later, he dropped out of competitive soccer to focus solely on ballet.
Asher’s first year of ballet classes took place at DanzArts, and the past two years has been at School of Classical Ballet and Dance. He also had the opportunity to participate in the Kansas City Ballet School’s five-week intensive ballet program this past summer (2018) and, again, he loved it.
He has performed in the ballets Snow White and in Cinderella, both with Ballet Des Moines and, last year, danced the role of Fritz in the Ballet Des Moines production of The Nutcracker.
Prior stage performance experience includes:
- 2016 – Willy Wonka Kids (Charlie Bucket) at the Des Moines Playhouse Performance Academy
- 2016 – James & the Giant Peach (Narrator/Ladahlord) at the Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre
- 2016 – Willy Wonka at the Des Moines Playhouse
- 2017 – School of Rock (Lawrence) at the Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre
- 2017 – Hairspray Jr. (Fender) at the Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre
Asher and BETM
At the beginning of 2017, Asher wrote a letter to the director of the Des Moines Playhouse asking him to consider Billy Elliot The Musical for the 2017-2018 Playhouse season. According to Asher’s mom, Tracy, “Asher is the only boy in his grade who dances and he really wanted other boys to see a young boy learning the power of dance and ballet.” BETM didn’t get selected to be performed last season.
When it was announced to be on the 2018-2019 season schedule, Asher was elated that others would be exposed to boys dancing but, ironically, he wasn’t initially going to audition for the show himself. He said he really wanted to concentrate on his ballet classes and was worried that he’d lose too much ground if he took time out to work on BETM.
So he didn’t go to the scheduled audition, but after emailing with the choreographer (with whom he had worked on prior productions at the theatre) a meeting was set up for Asher to meet with the director and choreographer about a week later. According to Tracy Ekhardt, Asher walked into the session “anxious and concerned about the role and walked out 45 minutes later incredibly excited about the chance to play Billy”.
And thus began his preparation for the role. Rehearsals have been on average three hours per day, five days per week at various temporary locations (while the Playhouse is still closed for renovations). When the Playhouse reopened in early September, rehearsals moved to seven days a week.
To get an idea of Asher’s singing voice, here’s a video clip of him singing at Noce, a Des Moines Jazz/Cabaret club.
With his debut in Des Moines on 5-Oct-2018, Asher becomes the 251st boy worldwide to portray the title role in a professional, regional or community theatre production of the musical.
For more information about Asher Ekhardt, visit:
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