Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Training The Next "Billy Elliot"

The West End musical "Billy Elliot" is a smash hit (and great fun). But it means having three lads who can tackle the role working on the show at the same time. (It's too strenuous to do eight shows a week for a 13 year old boy when they're the lead and have to sing, dance and act more than anyone else. Also, one lad has to be on call at every performance in case the kid onstage has to take a powder.) Plus there's the touring company and productions around the world. The result? A constant series of auditions and intense training, mostly with kids who have barely danced before and are often from working class families in the north. Finding one kid who can play the role is immense. Finding him again and again and again seems impossible. Here's an interesting piece on the process. My favorite tidbits: dancing comes first, singing is much less important but second and acting is third. (Director Stephen Daldry insists any kid can act.) And the first thing the lads are asked to do during an audition is to rush up to the desk where the judges are sitting and shout, "I don't want to be in fucking 'Billy Elliot' anyway!"

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