Growing up in Southfield, Cole Thompson was influenced by his father, who is a musician and his mother, who is an educator, but it wasn’t until he performed in “Meet Me in St. Louis” as a student at Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School that he realized musical theater was his passion.
“I was always surrounded by music. I’ve been in choir for as long as I can remember. I took piano lessons and (briefly) trumpet lessons. I started taking music lessons as a kid because it was something I enjoyed. At the time, I never thought it would lead to a career,” Thompson explains. “I started professional voice lessons my junior year in high school and continued voice training as a musical theatre major at University of Michigan.”
His love for musical theater took him to summer theater programs in Connecticut in 2019 and Vermont in 2021. Of course, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the performing arts world with closures, but happily theaters have since reopened. For Thompson, this set the stage for a move to New York City in the fall of 2021, and the pursuit of his dream of a theatrical career.
Recently, he auditioned for the Tony Award-winning musical “Into the Woods,” and was thrilled to have earned a part.
“It all happened so fast. I was thankful to be able to audition in-person for the creative team since in-person auditions are just coming back after COVID-19,” Thompson says. “It’s very exciting to be part of this production. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and to be working with an incredible cast of Broadway performers. It’s a great story that plays out like a fairytale.”
In the musical, the various fairytale characters each wish for something then must learn the responsibility that comes along with getting what they want. Thompson, who plays Jack – as in Jack in the Beanstalk – performs alongside well-known stars such as Heather Headley, Sara Bareilles, Christian Borle, and Ashley Park, among others. According to Thompson, the cast is rehearsing for several weeks in preparation for the May 4-15 run at New York City Center. His parents and brother will be in the audience watching.
While he now lives in Midtown Manhattan, Thompson says his roommate is a friend from Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School, and that he regularly sees friends from both high school and college. As many performers do, he works another job to help pay the bills while he pursues his musical theater ambitions. After the show ends, he plans to work as a nanny, which taps former local experience working with children as a camp counselor – an influence he credits back to his mother, the educator.
Thompson offers up this advice to aspiring performers, “It’s always said that you have to be your number one supporter – and it’s true. You don’t get a role from every audition – that’s just the way it works. But you have to tell yourself and believe that you are bringing something special to the audition or performance that no one else has.”
Story: Tracy Donohue