Billy Elliot the Musical, the joyous celebration of one boy’s journey to make his dreams come true, will be preformed live on The Orpheum Theatre stage September 18 to September 23, 2012. Set in a small town, the story follows Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, discovering a surprising talent that inspires his family and his whole community and changes his life forever. A big musical with an even bigger heart, Billy Elliot the Musical will enchant the dreamer in all of us.
Based on the international smash-hit film, Billy Elliot the Musical is brought to life by a phenomenal cast and the Tony® Award -winning creative team -- director Stephen Daldry, choreographer Peter Darling and writer Lee Hall -- along with music legend Elton John, who has written what the New York Post calls “HIS BEST SCORE YET!”
Did You Know?
• Over 8 million people worldwide have seen Billy Elliot the Musical including HM The Queen, Hilary Clinton, Nicole Kidman, Bill Gates, Ben Stiller, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Anna Wintour, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Hugh Jackman, Vice President Joe Biden and Kevin Spacey. Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and score writer, Elton John, have all made cameo appearances in the show.
• Since its world premiere, 28 boys have played Billy in London, 10 have played Billy in Australia and 16 boys played the title role on Broadway. A total of 63 boys, including Jamie Bell who played Billy Elliot in the award-winning film, have now performed the title role, some having performed in more than one production or moved continent to play the role. The boys playing Billy have to date hailed from England, Ireland, Scotland, USA, Canada, Australia and Switzerland.
• Actors aged from 6 – 81 have performed in the show since its world premiere.
• The first North American performance of Billy Elliot the Musical was at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre on October 1, 2008. The Broadway production ended its phenomenally successful, Tony Award® winning run on January 8, 2012 after 1,344 performances, having been seen by nearly 1.8 million people.
• The average Billy stays in the role for 1.5 years.
• During an average week, the Billys spend six to eight hours in rehearsal and up to six hours in private dance classes. On top of that, they spend 15 hours a week in educational tutoring.
• Every Billy is assigned four pairs of ballet slippers at a time – the show pair, a backup pair, a rehearsal pair and a promotions pair.
• In each show, the performing Billy will wear seven pairs of shoes – one pair of sneakers, three pairs of tap shoes, one pair of ballet slippers, one pair of bedroom slippers and one pair of tap covers.
• Every costume, prop and accessory used in the show has a duplicate for use in the rehearsal studio.
• Each boy grows out of their shoes at least once, often twice, during their time with Billy Elliot the Musical. Like many speciality shoes, it takes a while to break in, so they try to hang on to them as long as possible.
• More than 2,500 boys have auditioned for the role of Billy in the United States.
• Casting team members travel to between seven and 10 cities a year searching for the next Billy.
• Billy Elliot the Musical is the winner of 81 awards worldwide including the Laurence Olivier Best Musical Award (London), the Helpmann Award for Best Musical (Australia) and ten 2009 Tony® Awards including Best Musical (Broadway) as well as multiple Dora Awards (Toronto), and Korea Musical Awards.
Finding Billy Elliot
“It is an extraordinary burden to put on such little shoulders,” says Daldry, who won the Tony Award for his direction of Billy Elliot, and is a three-time Oscar nominee. “Never before has anything been asked of a child to this degree in the theater.”
TONY AWARDS 2009
1. Best Musical Billy Elliot the Musical
2. Best Book of a Musical Lee Hall
3. Best Director of a Musical Stephen Daldry
4. Best Choreography Peter Darling
5. Best Leading Actor in a Musical David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish
6. Best Featured Actor in a Musical Gregory Jbara
7. Best Set Design of a Musical Ian MacNeil
8. Best Lighting Design of a Musical Rick Fisher
9. Best Sound Design of a Musical Paul Arditti
10. Best Orchestrations Martin Koch
The 1984 Miners’ Strike: The history behind Billy Elliot the Musical
Billy Elliot the Musical plays out amid the turmoil of the 1984 coal miners’ strike in Northern England, one of the darkest times in modern British history. As young Billy studies ballet, the mining town where he lives experiences relentless hardship and despair.
Director Stephen Daldry, book writer and lyricist Lee Hall, composer Elton John, and choreographer Peter Darling deftly interweave the story of the miners’ struggles with Billy’s journey, which becomes a beacon of hope in a dying community.
“It’s not possible to exaggerate how close Britain came to civil war,” Daldry said. “That strike was one of the most important events in my life, as well as in domestic village politics. It bookends the show.”
Although one doesn’t need to be familiar with this part of British history to be thoroughly moved, uplifted and inspired by Billy Elliot the Musical, knowledge of the conflict adds an even greater appreciation for the accomplishment of the creative team – the same artists, minus John, responsible for the 2000 film – and why they are so passionate about telling the miners’ story.
In 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), with 250,000 members, was among the most powerful unions in Britain. The coal industry had been nationalized in 1947; in essence, it was owned by the country.
“The profits and the use of that resource were commonly held, just like a library or school,” Hall said.
The NUM had gone on strike in 1972 and 1974, and the British people, for the most part, were on their side. At that time, Britain got most of its energy from coal, and Prime Minister Edward Heath hoped that the public would blame the union for the blackouts and massive disruptions they were regularly experiencing.
“Instead, distaste for the government grew,” Hall said.
A general election was held: Heath and his Conservative (or Tory) party were voted out, and the Labour Party was voted in. The NUM flourished.In the aftermath of the Conservatives’ defeat, Nicholas Ridley, a right-wing member of parliament, drew up a plan advising the Tories how to conquer and dismantle the coal industry the next time their party took power. The Ridley Report included a suggestion that the country “train and equip a large, mobile squad of police, ready to employ riot tactics in order to uphold the law against violent picketing.” His ideas were supported by Margaret Thatcher, who became prime minister in 1979.
“She wanted to reduce the political influence of trade unions,” says Hall. “Her ideology and economic outlook was based on letting big business look after public needs.”
After winning re-election in 1983, Thatcher implemented Ridley’s plan. Coal from abroad was stockpiled, and many power stations were switched over to oil. The National Coal Board announced that 20 mines would be closed. A national strike was declared in March, 1984.
The show gleefully and savagely vilifies former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, architect of a policy to destroy the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
“It became confrontational very quickly,” Hall said. “Thatcher sent a lot of London police up north. From the start they were far too aggressive. When things got violent, it became a common occurrence for the police to arrest ‘troublemakers’ in their houses. The streets would be flooded with policemen who would break down doors, and bring out ringleaders of the union who had supposedly committed violence on the picket line. Sure there was violence by the pickets. But there was also violence by the police. It escalated, and there were pit battles, including a very famous one called Orgreave. The police, on horses, with their riot shields, attacked and beat up many miners.”
The local policemen were put in a very ambiguous situation, because their livelihoods were dependent on the continued existence of the industry. Unlike in the previous decade, the miners did not have widespread public support. Many members of the media abetted Thatcher by presenting just one side of the story.
“Thatcher put a lot of pressure on the BBC to say that the miners were only interested in violence,” Hall said. “She called them ‘the enemy within.’ You never saw the violence being perpetrated against ordinary families. You only saw the retaliation. About six months in, it became clear that the miners had been hung out to dry by politicians who were supposedly in their camp.”
Thatcher had the resources to do whatever she wanted.
“Because they stockpiled coal, the strike did not have much effect,” Hall said. “After a year, the resources of the state were infinite, and the miners were broke. Very gradually, people started to drift back to work. It became quite clear that the strike was going to be broken, and Thatcher had won.”
The government immediately started closing the pits. Thatcher was followed as prime minister by another Conservative, John Major, and by the time he left office in 1997, 80 percent of the coal mining industry had been shut down. Other pits were sold off and privatized. The number of miners had dwindled to about 5000.
“A third of our energy still comes from coal, but that coal is imported from Ukraine,” Hall said. “We lost the industry.”
At the end of Billy Elliot, it’s clear that the mining community is on a path to nowhere. But Billy is poised to go in a different direction. His talent and passion lift the spirits, as he heads down a road filled with infinite possibilities.
The Memphis Connection
For two years Memphis native Jacob Zelonky starred in the national tour of the Broadway hit "Billy Elliot the Musical". In this video he shares his story from his beginnings at the Harrell Theatre in Collierville, TN to getting his big break playing Billy's best friend Michael, a role he recently out grew.