September marks one year since Long Hill Township teen Ruby Rakos launched her Broadway career playing Tracey Atkinson in the musical hit Billy Elliot.
It’s been a whirlwind year for the recent Central Middle School graduate with a powerhouse voice. She performs eight shows a week as a girl in Billy Elliot’s ballet class and has a featured dance role. Rakos, who turns 14 in September, trained for five years at Stagestruck, now part of the Wharton Music Center in Berkeley Heights. At age 11, she auditioned during an open call to play the dance teacher’s daughter in the original cast.
“We wanted to see what a real Broadway audition was like,” says her mom, Katie Kearns. Rakos didn’t get the part and then outgrew that role. But a casting director encouraged her to try again, and when an opening came along a year and a half later to play Tracey, she got the nod.
“I just love performing,” says Rakos, who hopes to have a Broadway career when she grows up. In the meantime, she created a one-woman cabaret at Wharton, “Lost in Rubyland,” and has performed several times at Birdland in Manhattan. Selections from her Wharton and Birdland performances can be seen on the LostinRubyland channel on YouTube, including her favorite song, “Orange Colored Sky,” the 1950 Nat King Cole hit. Rakos also performed “Shine,” a musical number from Billy Elliot, at the televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Among the celebrities she’s had the good fortune to meet: Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical” fame, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kate Winslet.
The hardest part of the past year was juggling school with rehearsals, performances, and the commute. In eighth grade, through a combination of tutoring and a reduced public school schedule, she even made the honor roll. In September, she moves on to Watchung Hills Regional High School, where a reduced schedule isn’t possible. Instead, Rakos will do a virtual school program.
So far, the hectic pace has been worth it. “The whole audience usually stands up after our final bow,” says Rakos, “and that’s rejuvenating.”Click here to leave a comment