With a big grin on his face, Tommy Cook holds a newspaper high in the air, and shouts out two major news developments from his mark on the vast Muny stage.
Tommy, 10, of Belleville, is making his professional stage debut as the newsboy in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” which runs nightly for seven performances through July 27.
He is also on stage in other scenes, but his lines are pivotal in Scene 8, Act 1 during the musical.
He is excited about his late 19th century character.
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“Being a newsboy is perfect for me because I love reading newspapers and learning about history. With this role I can do both! I am so grateful for this opportunity,” Tommy said.
Tommy is the middle child of Bruce and Ashley Cook of Belleville. He couldn’t be happier for his moment in the spotlight.
“My family has always gone to a lot of theaters around the U.S. since I was a little kid. The Muny has always been my favorite. I decided one day I wanted to be on the Muny stage, and Friday night I had my chance,” Tommy said.
He has gained performing experience at the Belleville School of Ballet, participating in “The Nutcracker” each fall, and with local community theaters. He takes voice lessons from Jamie Eros in Belleville, who is also the music director at St. Clare School in O’Fallon.
Two of his favorite productions have been “Fiddler on the Roof” last fall at Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, where he was a bottle dancer, and “A Christmas Story” as Toadie at Curtain’s Up Theatre Company in Edwardsville.
Both were directed by Glenn Saltamachia of Swansea.
“Glenn is an amazing director, and helped Tommy a lot,” Ashley Cook said.
Early in his life, Tommy showed interest in performing.
“He would make plays around the house, be the director, walk around giving everyone parts,” Ashley said. “He’s just a natural. He can walk out in front of 11,000 people. He has no fear of public speaking.”
The Muny has been a rewarding experience, his mom said.
“Beth Malone, who plays Molly, and Justin Guarini, who plays Vincenzo, have been so nice to Tommy. They have gone out of their way to make him feel welcome, and treat him like he’s just as important as anyone else in the cast,” Ashley said.
“It’s been an amazing experience. It’s been incredible for him to work alongside these singers and dancers who are from all over the country,” she said. “You see these people work so hard. This is a beautiful show, and to see it come together is really special.”
The intense short rehearsal period can turn into long hours, but Ashley said Tommy loves it.
“If he wasn’t into it, we wouldn’t do this. You learn that it’s a community, and that’s really great. We really love these people. Everyone has been so nice,” she said. “He learns very quickly, and is a big reader. He just loves it.”
He is not part of the Muny Kids, but Ashley predicts Tommy will audition in the spring for the performing troupe. He auditioned for the newsboy separately.
Tommy and his siblings, Madeline, 8, and John, 12, are involved in sports and school activities, too.
Tommy, a fifth grader at The Wilson School in Clayton, Missouri., enjoys baseball, soccer, golf and swimming.
“There are always time issues,” she said, so choices must be made. But performing will be pursued.
“He can always say he was up on the Muny stage. Years from now, it’s something he will always remember,” Ashley said.