Lakeland Resident Shines on Stage

Benjamin Cheng Set to Star in Briarcrest Production of Peter Pan, Jr.

BCS_B Cheng

Benjamin Cheng. Staff Photo

At 13 years old, Briarcrest Christian School seventh-grader Benjamin Cheng  has  pretty big goals. “I really want to go on Broadway,” he explained, “and become famous there.”

While Cheng plans to get a college education first — to get his bearings and build a stable foundation in case Broadway doesn’t work out — he already has a very impressive resume for someone who has only been performing for a few years.

Prior to being cast as Peter at Briarcrest,  Cheng played Flounder in last year’s school production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. Around Memphis, Cheng has appeared at Playhouse on the Square as Gavroche in Les Miserables and as the title role in the upcoming Billy Elliot.  An accomplished dancer, Cheng tap danced on top of a piano (right) as the Young Peter in The Boy from Oz at TheatreMemphis.

Cheng  as Young Peter in "The Boy from Oz." Photo Courtesy of Briarcrest Christian School

Cheng as Young Peter in “The Boy from Oz.” Photo Courtesy of Briarcrest Christian School

Not your typical “putting on plays in the basement” kind of child actor, Cheng volunteered that he first tagged along with his older sisters to the New Day Children’s Theatre in Collierville when he was eight years old. “My parents wanted some night outs, because my sisters were already doing it, so they just put me in there as well.”. His debut role? A troll and a dog in “Princess  Georgie.”

Although he had had no prior interest in acting, Cheng was bitten by the theater bug. In his next role at New Day, he sang a solo and, he said, “my parents found out that I can actually sing.”

Performing in a kid’s cabaret lead to the discovery that he could dance, too. Cheng enrolled in Hip Hop classes (“because I love that!” he adds), which led to dance lessons and voice lessons. Cheng currently takes five hours of dance classes and one hour-and-a-half-long voice lesson each week.

“I’m really surprised that I was able to get a main role so fast,” Cheng said “[My talent] was in there, and it just came out when I got into my first play—and they’re like ‘oh, my goodness he can dance and sing!’—and so it just sort of went like a wildfire from there.”

Cheng is looking forward to “flying” in the Briarcrest production. As a Lost Boy in Peter Pan at Playhouse on the Square last year, he got to see his fellow actors fly.

Briarcrest Christian Middle School students will take flight in bringing Disney’s Peter Pan, Jr. to the Briarcrest stage on April 16, 17 and 18 with evening performances at 7:00 pm. On Saturday, April 18, there will also be a matinee beginning at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

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