10-year-old nabs alternate role in national touring production

He may have acted on his desire to become a triple threat only recently, but Will B — his real name is Will Brandon Whitesell — has already hit the jackpot. He’s been touring the United States as part of the cast of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”

The 10-year-old Southern Highlands youth plays the part of Benji, alternating with Shane Davis of Summerlin.

The “B” is for “believe,” his parents said.

Will B’s mother, Tammy, said her son showed signs of talent early in life.

“He’d be walking around in a diaper, singing Carrie Underwood songs,” she said. “He always sang, making up his own words to (songs). It was really kind of comical. In fact, we thought maybe he’d be a comedian. … At that age, you’re not thinking, ‘Oh, “The Voice.” ’ ”

About a year and a half ago, after noticing how he’d perfected his vocals to sound like Adele, they enrolled Will B in Cool Blue Talent. The company holds events called Fusion in which students perform before agents and/or producers from Los Angeles and New York City. He was soon hooked up with songwriter
L-Jay, who wrote four songs for him. The recorded songs can be heard on YouTube under “willbasuperstar.”

Will B got more exposure on Vegas Kids TV with Hands Off Our Children. He has been on radio stations live and performed at the San Gennaro Feast at the Silverton and at schools. He also has done volunteer work with Bully Busters.

Trying out for the part of Benji was Will B’s first audition. It took place after he’d had only five singing lessons. He may not have needed more because he got everyone’s attention and, a couple of months later, the paperwork was signed. He and Shane were flown to New York City with their parents where they met the rest of the cast and began rehearsals. That was in December. The show opened a few weeks later in Peoria, Ill.

The “Priscilla” tour is scheduled for six-night stints, the seventh day of the week being a travel day. It is currently in Las Vegas for an 11-week run through Aug. 31 at The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South. From there, it goes to Denver; Tempe, Ariz.; San Diego; Costa Mesa, Calif; Sacramento, Calif.; and concludes in Seattle. The show was supposed to end in July but was extended through Nov. 17. For more information, visit priscillaontour.com.

The Whitesells, Tammy and Ed, own a small landscaping company, which they do not need to be in town to operate. It means they get to travel with their son to each city on the tour.

“We didn’t want to break up the family,” Tammy said. “It’s our own little ‘Priscilla’ adventure.”

Shane and Will B are tutored while on the road. Will’s grades have not faltered. He recently scored a 500 out of 500 on his math CRT.

His mother said the applause and fame have not changed her son, and performing is what he loves to do — well, that and LEGOs.

“He’s so humble … one of those kids nobody knows who he is until he gets on stage and starts singing,” Tammy said. “I’m amazed that he can get up in front of 2,000 people and perform. I sit in the audience a nervous wreck, but he’s up there (having fun). It’s made me realize that this was what he was meant to do.”

While the show is in Las Vegas, the two boys share the role by doing it every other day. When on the road, though, one child performs three nights in a row and the other performs the next three nights. Both boys get along well and play on their iPads and build things with LEGOs.

“They’ve become brothers out there because they’ve been thrown together so much,” Tammy said.

Will B said he started at Cool Blue Talent intending to be an actor.

“It’s fun to go on stage or on camera,” he said. “I just love entertaining.”

He said he auditioned for the part in “Priscilla” because his agent suggested it. The best part, for him, is seeing the whole country. He wanted to see the East Coast because he wondered what it was like to be in a place with rain.

Since being in “Priscilla,” he’s decided he likes singing better than acting. But being on the road has its drawbacks. About halfway through the tour, all the stops started blurring together, he said. That’s about the time he got a little homesick.

What’s next for the budding star?

Will B learned that one of the boys in “Matilda,” now playing on Broadway, is leaving the show, and he said he has his eye on the role. Mom was less sure, taking a wait-and-see approach. She said he has his heart set on being a Disney kid, so they would likely look into that avenue first.

His agent, Kim Harris of Cool Blue Entertainment, said it was not common for a child who’s had only five singing lessons under his belt to land a part in a big touring show, but Will B has a natural ability mixed with an outgoing personality.

“Right now, I’m really promoting him to do TV and film,” Harris said. “I can picture Will doing something with Disney or Nickelodeon or something like that. We have another little boy who just landed a Disney show, and we’re going to push for Will to go down that same path next.”

When he gets famous, will he take a stage name or his keep his own?

“I don’t know,” he said. “Let me ask my mom.”

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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