Young star bounces back from COVID-19

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Jaxon Cohen is only 11 years old, but he has already been talent-spotted, played a lead role in the musical Matilda, travelled overseas, caught coronavirus, and recovered from it – just since December.
by TALI FEINBERG | Apr 30, 2020

The talented Johannesburg youngster recently appeared on the SA Jewish Report and Excel Academy webinars Lockdown’s Got Talent and Yid Kids Got Talent, and from his confident performances, one would never know that he had just recovered from the virus that has turned the world upside down.

Cohen was performing as the character Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda in Manila (the Philippines) when coronavirus started spreading in that country. The tour had just started, and was meant to continue throughout Asia until February 2021, but it was decided to cancel the show and send everybody home. “The kids were upset, but they understood that this is a world pandemic and not about us or a show,” says his mother, Hailey Fox, who goes by her maiden name.

“We arrived home in the middle of March, and went straight into quarantine with my husband and two other children for 14 days, as most people on international flights were advised to do. No one was allowed in or out of our house. My husband set up an office at home, and our friends were amazing – dropping off food for us and crafts for the kids, and just being available when we needed things done,” she says.

“After being home for about four days, Jaxon had a slightly high temperature, so we called the doctor who advised going for a test. We got the results the following day. Jaxon had tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily, his symptoms were mild, and his temperature broke within 24 hours. We used only Panado, and he had no other symptoms. My test came back negative, and no one else in the family has had any symptoms since then. We entered a further 21 days in quarantine as is the rule when someone has tested positive,” says Fox.

Jaxon has remained upbeat throughout this rollercoaster ride. “He thinks he’s pretty cool right now, having recovered from coronavirus. He can’t wait till school goes back one day to tell his buddies about his adventures in the beautiful Philippines, which included swimming with baby turtles, performing on a professional stage, and making some great new friends. He hopes that everybody stays safe and healthy, and that this pandemic finally reaches an end. Then, maybe he can get back to eating some more chocolate cake as Bruce Bogtrotter!”

Being infected with coronavirus is just one aspect of a whirlwind few months for the youngster, who is in Grade 6 at King David Linksfield (KDL). “He’s obsessed with bugs and reptiles and has always loved to sing and play guitar. He’s been playing at [King David Linksfield music teacher] Margi Kopping’s after-school music lessons for about three years,” says Fox.

“In the December holidays, Jaxon decided to join one of his best friends for a week of fun at Vicky Friedman’s Fame Academy. It’s a musical theatre holiday workshop where they sing, dance, and act. Vicky saw potential in Jaxon, and approached us to see if he would be interested in taking it further.

“After introducing Jaxon to Duane Alexander, the co-founder and director of the Luitingh Alexander Musical Theatre Academy (LAMTA) in Cape Town, he went through various auditions that covered singing, acting, and dancing, and eventually was offered the part of Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda the Musical by GWB Entertainment.”

The character is most memorable for the scene in which he is forced to eat a giant chocolate cake, and the role is extended in the musical. It’s the most prominent male child role in the show, with many songs and scenes.

Fox says that Jaxon’s principal and school were very supportive of him taking on this amazing year-long opportunity, and GWB provided travelling tutors so the kids could do school work on the road.

“Jaxon moved to Cape Town for a month of training at LAMTA with the other new kids who were joining the production. He loved every minute of this, including the beach time after rehearsals.”

Jaxon says that the highlights of being in the show include travelling overseas, exploring new places (including their insect life), performing on stage with such a talented cast, and signing autographs. He feels like “the luckiest kid in the world” to have been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It's not the end of the story. “Matilda is such an amazing show – taking the audience through an array of emotions that you can’t help but fall in love with,” says Fox. “When the world has healed and returned to normal, it will be back.”

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