Four boys are in the touring company of Billy Elliot to play Billy, rotating in the role during eight shows a week. They are part of a community of children in the musical, whose cast includes 20 actors from 7 to 15 years old, along with eight child wranglers (chaperones) and three tutors, not to mention assorted parents, other family members and pets.
Billy is a demanding role that calls for a variety of dance styles — ballet, tap and "acro'' (acrobatics) — as well as acting and singing. "It's the equivalent of running a marathon and playing Hamlet,'' resident choreographer Kurt Froman says. And since Billy is 11 or 12 in the show, when an actor grows too tall or his voice changes, he is out of work. Meet the boys:
Daniel Russell, 14
Hometown: Umina Beach, Australia
5 feet, 89 pounds
Billy's accent: "It is very different from the Australian accent. We're trained in the accent in every line that we speak. It's called the 'Geordie' accent from the Newcastle area of England, where the play is set.''
Favorite number: "I like when we get to go on the high wire and fly around in the dream ballet sequence. That's the bit where I really enjoy myself. We're in the air for about two minutes.''
Kylend Hetherington, 13
Hometown: Auburn, Mich.
4 feet 11, 85 pounds
Try, try again: "I've been working for this role for almost four years,'' says Kylend, who auditioned for Billy Elliot in Orlando, New York and Detroit. He played another character, Michael, in the Broadway company before joining the tour to play Billy.
Billy camp: "I did Billy camp, where they take kids they think have the potential to play Billy and work on their ballet, tap and acro. Tap was definitely my strength. I started tap at 4, then ballet at 9.''
Giuseppe Bausilio, 13
Hometown: Bern, Switzerland
5 feet 1, 105 pounds
Life on the road: "It's nice to have the bed made every day. My mom is traveling with me now, and we have a white Western terrier named Billy.''
Getting to know Elton John: "He is an awesome person. We met him in Chicago and went on Oprah with him.''
Lex Ishimoto, 12
Hometown: Irvine, Calif.
4 feet 9, 83 pounds
The littlest Billy: "I'm the lightest Billy and the youngest. I have a background in street dancing and hip-hop.''
Big number: "My Electricity (a solo in Act 2) is really, really different. The Electricity of the other boys is balletic, with a lot of flow. In mine, I do a lot of acro and hip-hop."