Growing up on the Northern Beaches, Andrew Cook knew he could hold a tune. He was also pretty light on his feet and not too shabby at playing someone else on stage. It was clear from an early age he was a natural performer.
But it wasn’t until in high school at Manly’s St Pauls that Andrew considered combining all his talents, at the prompting of his “really amazing” voice coach who suggested he give musical theatre a go.
Fast forward more than two decades and that ‘go’ has evolved into a stunning career, with Andrew starring in countless productions including Sweet Charity, Priscilla, The Carole King Musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, Strictly Ballroom, Oklahoma, A Chorus Line, Chicago, Matilda and King Kong.
Arguably, his best yet is as the villainous Duke in Moulin Rouge! The Musical, a character he has played for the past six months in Melbourne where the musical has thrilled audiences and is expected to electrify Sydney when it opens in a couple of weeks at the Capitol Theatre.
“I grew up watching the film Moulin Rouge,” Andrew said. “It was so iconic and redefined what a musical could be and to have the opportunity to perform it is a dream. Opening night in Sydney is going to be so huge, as we didn’t really get an opening night in Melbourne because of COVID.”
Andrew stars alongside Alinta Chidzey (Satine), Des Flanagan (Christian), Simon Bourke (Harold Zidler), Tim Omaji (Toulouse-Lautrec) and Ryan Gonzalez (Santiago). However it’s his character, the Duke of Monroth, we love to hate, although Andrew said the Duke in the musical is quite different from the character made famous by Richard Roxburgh in the 2001 film.
“He’s still very dangerous, complex and interesting, with a really nasty streak. You wouldn’t want to mess with him. But he also reveals a lot of joyful, really tender and vulnerable moments, making him a more refined and viable option for Satine, and that empowers her.
“I love finding out where his pain is and then driving anger from there,” Andrew added. “I definitely to try to personalise him with my own self, which is important for an artist.”
Raised in Curl Curl, and learning to surf at Freshie – a beach he thinks about a lot – Andrew said acting, singing and dancing was always in his blood. A musician and singer first, playing piano with a strong focus on jazz and R&B music, he pursued acting and dancing separately.
“I never put the three together until Sarah Webster, my amazing voice coach, expanded me as a singer and an artist. I also went to Stage Artz where Sam Kneaves really took me under her wing, giving me a lot of confidence in my skills.
“Around years 7 and 8 I realised I was good at it and could probably do something with it. Meanwhile at school, I was very sport orientated, playing soccer, footy and swimming. I was a very busy kid.”
Andrew has spent the last 11 years in Melbourne, moving there after graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAPPA) in 2014 to perform in the ensemble of King Kong and understudy for the principle role of Jack Driscoll.
“WAPPA was the only college offering a three-year bachelor degree in musical theatre,” Andrew explained. “I also liked it because it was so far away from everything I knew and was the only reason to be in Perth. It was very intense, you could just focus and push yourself into being the best you can be.”
Seemingly, having achieved the best in all three of his passions – acting, singing and dancing – Andrew hesitated when asked which he’d pick if forced to choose.
“I would have to say acting, because through all these mediums we are storying telling, trying to impact someone else,” he reflected. “And I’d choose stage over film because it’s such an adrenal moment. You have 2000 people watching you be a human being on stage, it’s terrifying and amazing at the same time.“
Andrew didn’t hesitate when asked what role he covets.
“Something that doesn’t exist yet, that is just waiting for me,” he laughed. “Or failing that, I’d love to play the Emcee in Cabaret. That is something I would love to do. “
- Moulin Rouge opens at the Capitol Theatre on May 28
- Tickets range from $89 to $299