To play the main character in “Billy Elliot the Musical,” boys ages nine to 12 spend months at Billy Camp. The intensive training covers tap dancing, ballet technique and acrobatics. On top of all that, Billies must act and sing well, because the success of the huge Broadway production rests on the shoulders of one little boy each night.
“The first day of rehearsal … they had all the kids leave the room for a second,” recalled Rich Hebert, who plays Billy’s dad in the touring production. “And the director said, ‘This show is about the kids. It’s about Billy, and always remember that.’”
On tour, there are four boys that take turns playing Billy, a coal miner’s son who discovers a passion for dancing — not exactly considered a worthwhile pursuit in a working-class English community affected by union strikes. The musical stays true to the movie on which it’s based, but adds more dancing and a score by Elton John.
Hebert said the inspiring tale often elicits a few tears from the audience, but there are many more joyful, funny moments than sad ones.
“It’s about the community coming together to ultimately support the individuality of the boy, of Billy,” he said.