Note: Ben’s final North American Tour performance as Billy was in Las Vegas, NV on May 19, 2013.
Debut: June 30, 2012 (Louisville, KY)
Total Performances as Billy: 71.5 (includes 1 partial show credited @.5)
At the matinee performance on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky, Ben Cook became the 65th boy in the world (and the 10th for the North American Tour of the show) to play the title role in Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM). By the time he left the role almost a year later, he was the senior Billy among the four boys who rotated in the role on the Tour.
Ben’s quest to be Billy was an abnormally long one, even for a show that has been known to require many audition call backs of its prospective Billys. But the 15-year-old (D.O.B. = 11-Dec-1997), who lived with his parents and two of his three siblings in Lorton, Virginia at the time of his debut, has persevered. According to his dad, Glenn, the process actually began in 2007 when Ben first auditioned for the show in Maryland. This was even before the show opened on Broadway. After two years of callbacks, he was finally offered the role of Tall Boy/Michael understudy on Broadway. And he was, in fact, the last full-time actor in that role on Broadway before the show closed there.
By then, Ben had amassed quite an impressive resume of amateur and professional credentials. Ben had gotten his early performance training at the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center. From that base, he auditioned for many roles in shows.
At the age of 9, he made his professional debut, playing Tiny Tim in a Ford’s Theater production of A Christmas Carol. Other roles included the Folger Theatre’s Macbeth and the Kennedy Center’s production of Ragtime. The latter show moved to Broadway, where he appeared in the Tony-nominated production again in 2009. Washington, DC area audiences have also seen Ben in the Ford’s production of Heavens Are Hung In Black, and in the Kennedy Center production of Terrance McNally’s Golden Age, part of last season’s Nights at the Opera trilogy. He also appeared in an episode of NBC’s sitcom 30 Rock.
But Ben had never given up on his dream of playing the title role of Billy Elliot. In the Fall of 2011, while he was still playing Tall Boy/Michael understudy on Broadway, the BETM creative team offered Ben the role of Michael on the North American tour of the show. Along with that offer was the promise that he would also be trained to play the title role of Billy on the tour.
In January, 2012, while the tour was playing Cincinnati, Ben, along with tour Billy J.P. Viernes, did an interview with Brian Douglas:
Credit: Video by BackstageWithBrian
Shortly after the above interview, and after just under three months of alternating the role of Michael with Jacob Zelonky, Ben suffered a slight strain to his Achilles Tendon, which sidelined him from playing Michael in the show. After some recuperation time at home in Virginia, he began full-time training for the role of Billy. His training included stints with the tour as it traveled around the country and five weeks of very intensive training in NYC.
While in NYC, Ben performed at the popular Times Square MetroJam at Don’t Tell Mama, hosted by Jenna Esposito. In this video clip, Ben covers Bruno Mars song Grenade:
Ben Cook Sings Grenade
Credit: Video by LostinRubyland
Ben’s quest to “Be Billy” finally successfully ended over five years after it began, with his debut on the stage of the Kentucky Performing Arts Center in Louisville on June 30, 2012. After that, people around the country got to experience the terrific talents of this BETM veteran until his final show as Billy in Las Vegas on May 19, 2013. That show was his 71.5th as Billy.
Life After Billy
- In 2014, Ben played the role of “Walt” in an episode of the HBO series Veep titled The Choice.
- Later in 2014, Ben began touring for a year and a half in the role of “Race”, and occasionally performed the role of “Crutchie” as the understudy, in the first national tour of Newsies the Musical, leaving that tour after over 500 performances in January, 2016.
- While touring with Newsies, Ben was taking classes online and graduated from the Academy at Metropolitan School of the Arts.
- Ben joined the original Broadway cast of Tuck Everlasting as a member of the ensemble. Previews of that show began in March, 2016.
- He reprised the role of “Race” in the filmed stage version of Disney’s Newsies in 2017.
- On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Ben played “Adam Turner” in the episode entitled Great Expectations (2017).
- In October of 2017, Ben joined the ensemble of Mean Girls: The Musical at the National Theatre in Washington D.C. Mean Girls premiered on Broadway in April, 2018 and Ben performed in the show for the last time a year later on April 7, 2019.
- In 2018, he appeared in the role of “Aaron Fisher” in the HBO film Paterno.
- In December of 2019, Ben is set to appear in the upcoming Broadway revival of West Side Story as “Riff”, the leader of the Jets.
- In 2020, Ben is scheduled to appear in the upcoming 2020 film adaptation of West Side Story as “Mouthpiece”, a member of the Jets.
In this video, compiled by a fan, some of the acting appearances listed above can be seen:
Credit: Video by Mrs. Ben Cook
For More Information on Ben Cook, visit: