First things first. Yes, that is the name on his birth certificate.
Peanut Edmonson came into the world two months premature at a scant four pounds, so tiny his parents couldn’t help but give him the unique name.
Fast forward 14 years. Peanut is playing the title role in the Cincinnati Music Theatre production of Billy Elliot, running Nov. 4 to 12 at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center.
While Billy Elliot marks Peanut’s CMT debut, the ninth grader is a veteran of stage and screen. Among his favorite roles are an Orchid-winning turn as Little Kangaroo in the 2011 Brieabi production of Seussical: The Musical and playing alongside Mariah Carey in her 2015 Cincinnati-shot television movie, A Christmas Melody.
However, Peanut has a distinct memory of giving up acting at the ripe old age of 2.
“I had been called back for a Huggies commercial four times,” he said. “I didn’t like other people copying me and there was this other kid at the fourth callback who was doing everything I did. I ran off the stage and said I never wanted to act again.”
Not only did Peanut eventually change is mind, he got back into the performing game with a terrific capacity for learning a script. In fact, he came to the first Billy Elliot rehearsal off book, meaning he already knew all his lines.
“I’m just very quick at memorizing,” he said. “I can learn 15, 20 pages in five minutes.”
The rehearsal process, then, is a chance for Peanut to find the emotion behind the words and create a memorable character. Which in the case of Billy has been a familiar journey.
“I’m a lot like Billy Elliot because I love to dance and perform,” he said. “That’s not something a lot of guys my age do, so we have that in common.”
Billy Elliot is based on the 2000 film of the same name, featuring a score by Elton John with book and lyrics by Lee Hall. It tells the story of Billy, an 11-year-old boy who wants nothing more than to dance at the Royal Ballet School in London. Set against a British coal mining strike in 1984-85, the rough-and-tumble realities of life make dreams difficult to pursue.
Tickets are available now online here or by phone at 513-627-ARTS.