Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Billy Elliot Goes Global; Boys from Hong Kong, the US and Dublin to Take over in West End

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Billy Elliot Goes Global; Boys from Hong Kong, the US and Dublin to Take over in West End

Article excerpt

Byline: TOM TEODORCZUK

BILLY ELLIOT, the lad from Tyneside who overcomes parental disapproval to dance his way to the Royal Ballet, has become a West End phenomenon.

But breaking voices and growth spurts mean the young actors who have earned critical acclaim in the title role of Sir Elton John's musical are beginning to move on.

And these are the boys who are going to step into their ballet shoes.

Director Stephen Daldry has cast his net far wider than the North-East in his hunt for fresh talent.

This year will see Billy played by boys of black and Asian backgrounds, and from as far afield as America and Ireland. They will take turns on stage to meet child employment regulations.

Liam Mower, 13, is the last surviving Billy from the original trio who opened in Billy Elliot The Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre in May.

Travis Hamilton Yates, 12, and Leon Cooke, 14, have both been playing the role since late last year.

Joining them is 12-year-old Matthew Koon, from Salford, who starts pirouetting next Wednesday.

"I'm quite nervous but I'm also really excited," he said. "It has been great dancing with other young people who enjoy dancing as much as I do."

Layton Williams, 11, from Bury, will take to the stage in September.

American Colin Bates, 15, was discovered in New York in auditions for the US Billy Elliot but was asked by Daldry to be in the London production because he would have been too old by the time the show opened on Broadway.

Would Colin have problems with the Geordie accent? "My father lives in England and I'm a good mimic," he said.

Dean McCarthy, 14, from Dublin, is the fourth new Billy. He said: "I can't believe my luck. I just thought, 'I'll go to the audition and see what happens'."

Mr Daldry said: "We're looking for unique children - kids like this don't grow on trees. "A lot of the boys in the show don't come from very wealthy backgrounds. Almost all have been through a certain amount of bullying or abuse and have been the only boy in their dance class. All the kids can relate to the story."

Daldry said he was delighted at the diversity of his new team: "We've always had a policy of inclusion of any child from any background. …

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