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By Ben Archibald
The Daily Record
March 10, 2012

The teenage grandson of legendary Scots entertainer Andy Stewart has fulfilled his dream – of playing Billy Elliot on the big stage. Harris Beattie, 13, was picked to perform the role after impressing tutors in the Royal Ballet School’s associate programme, which nurtures young talented students between the ages of eight and 15. And now he’s playing the part of Billy in front of thousands of theatregoers in London’s West End.

Harris is following in the footsteps of his famous grandfather, who had a number of hit singles, including Donald Where’s Your Troosers, and was compere of the 1960s TV variety show The White Heather Club.

His first performance, after months of training, came last month at the Victoria Palace theatre.

Andy’s widow, Sheila, who lives in Arbroath, was in the audience for his debut night and described his performance as “absolutely amazing”.

And she reckoned that Andy, who died in 1993, would have been very impressed. Sheila added: “Harris is entertaining people and doing his own thing, and I know Andy would have been very proud.”

Harris, from Bieldside, Aberdeen, says he has a lot in common with Billy as his mother, Linsey, died less than three years ago. His aunt and uncle, Debbie and Keith Gordon, have been his legal guardians since.

He said: “There is a connection between Billy and I. His mum died when he was young so I know how he feels. My mum loved Billy Elliot the Musical and I’m so happy to be in it.

“However, I dedicated my first performance to my Aunt Debbie and Uncle Keith – they have done so much for me. “They took me into their family, looked after me and have given me so much love. I can’t thank them enough.”

The play – based on the 2000 hit film starring Julie Walters and Jamie Bell – has been performed on stage since 2005. Cults Academy pupil Harris, who has danced since the age of seven, is the newest member of the cast and the 29th boy to play the role of Billy.

There are generally three or four young people assigned to a part at any given time. They do two shows a week and are then in the wings waiting to step up in the event of illness or injury.

Sheila added: “They all live together in London in what’s called the ‘Billy House’. They have lessons in the morning, dance training and rehearsals in the afternoon, then a performance at night if it is their turn to play Billy. It’s not just dancing either. They have to learn accents too as Billy is a Geordie. It’s amazing how much they do.”

Harris started taking Saturday ballet lessons in Carnoustie, Angus, and after his mother’s death and subsequent move to Aberdeen, dancing became central to his life.

Sheila said: “He was at dance classes every day of the week and lived for his dancing in Aberdeen. “His mother had seen Billy Elliot before and loved it. She would have been over the moon.”

© 2012 Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd

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