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by Joe Thomas
The Southport Visiter
Photograph by Billy Elliot, The Musical
April 15, 2011

A TALENTED schoolboy has fought off more than 1,500 wannabe superstars to land his dream role as Billy Elliot on the West End stage. Ryan Collinson battled through months of tough auditions against a host of highly trained children to claim the part. The 12-year-old’s hard work paid off when he made his debut in front of a packed theatre on Wednesday night.

The Christ the King pupil started off as a street dancer who learned his moves in his bedroom. But after watching the Billy Elliot DVD older sister Lauren bought him, the main character inspired him to take up ballet.

Proud parents Kayla and Graham, who live on Lilac Avenue in Woodvale, agreed to register him with a class at Formby School of Performing Arts. Shrugging off playground jibes, the former So Talented star shone, and after just six lessons teacher Miss Hayley advised Ryan to go to Billy Elliot auditions in Manchester.

Kayla said: “He had only had six ballet classes, but she said he was special, there was something special about him – take him.”

After excelling at the auditions, in October 2009, Ryan took different classes to catch up on his competition, who had years of training behind them. The determined schoolboy then progressed through months of intense qualifying before being invited to spend five weeks at a Billy Elliot summer school in London last year. His mum could not believe the transformation of her starlet from a raw talent to highly tuned performer.

Kayla said: “When I watched him, he would say ‘put some music on mum,’ and he would dance all around the room. I thought they would have a job getting him to watch, listen and perform. “And then I watched him with all these kids that had been doing it for years and he was holding his own. He was one of just two of those boys who got the part.”

Moving down to London last September, Ryan has had to work hard in the build up to his debut.

Kayla said: “I’m so proud of Ryan. It’s like a fairytale story.”

And their son is delighted with his progression. Recalling the moment he found out he had the part, he said: “It was the best day of my life, and now I am living my dream.”

Ryan will be performing on the West End for at least six months.

A number of people have played a key role in his development. In particular his family were keen to thank Jeff Brookes and the coaches at Southport YMCA, Ainsdale Methodist Church for letting him practice tap there in the winter, and Deborah Clark at the Wallasey School of Ballet.


© 2011 Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales Limited

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