From regular kid to child star in no time

Story and Photo by Casey Lessard

Drayton Entertainment has struck gold this spring, discovering an adorable ingenue who should have audiences (especially grandmothers) coming back for more Oliver! The play, based on Charles Dickens’ story of the orphan who falls in with a gang of pickpockets, opens June 2 at the Huron Country Playhouse.
Joel Cox, 10, is a Grade 5 student at Mary Johnston Public School in Waterloo. At 4’4”, and with curly golden locks that extend to his shoulders, it’s hard to picture Mr. Bumble (the orphan’s caretaker) refusing him more Food, Glorious Food. Cox was discovered at a open audition for the role.
“My music teacher said I should try out for Oliver,” Cox says, “then Kim and my dad asked me if I wanted to do it. I just came here (to audition) for the experience to see what it would be like. Three days later, they told me that I was Oliver. I didn’t think it was that big. Then after a few days, I finally figured out, Whoa, this is huge.”
Dean Cox, Joel’s dad, moved the family to a cottage for five weeks during Joel’s two-week rehearsal and three-week run.
“It’s a cool story. He’s gone from nothing to everything. He’s a bright kid and he likes to be challenged. I hope he enjoys it because I don’t think he realizes how big it is yet. He’s still innocent, and that makes it special.”
With thousands of ticket-holders expecting big things from the young star, it’s a good thing he is innocent, considering this is his first professional performance.
“I did have some experience singing for about two years,” says Joel, who also plays guitar, “but I don’t have any drama experience other than community theatre.
“Now I’m in this acting thing. My school supports me well, and I don’t think they’re too worried. I didn’t have to do any homework over this, so that’s good.”
Joel’s innocent attitude could rule the day, with Kim Cox noting Joel is eager to return even after long days in rehearsals.
“It’s been really fun,” Joel says. “Usually I pick up things really quick. When you’re having fun, it’s a blast.”
With dreams of being a professional actor, a guitarist and a midfielder for the British soccer club Chelsea, Cox is focused and exudes confidence that he can pull this off. His secret?
“Just be myself. Just act.”
Oliver! is directed by Ron Ulrich, and runs June 2 to 20. For tickets, visit or call 519-238-6000.