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By Jody Feinberg
Photographs by Greg Derr
The Patriot Ledger
July 09, 2012

Noah Parets, 13, felt something had changed when he returned to his Sharon home last week, after an absence of more than two months. “I thought, ‘Wow, I must have grown, because the house felt smaller,’” said Noah, who is 4 feet, 8 inches tall and made his stage debut July 1 as the star of the Broadway national tour of “Billy Elliot the Musical.” The Tony Award-winning musical runs at The Opera House from July 24 to Aug. 19.

Noah isn’t taller than he was in April, but his house may seem smaller because his world has grown significantly since he started training for the demanding role of Billy Elliot. Playing an English boy who confounds his working-class father to pursue his dream of being a ballet dancer, Noah not only has to excel in dance, but also sing and act.

After a recent debut in Louisville, Ky., Noah received three standing ovations. The elation he felt sharply contrasted with his fright in the minutes before the curtain opened. “I felt incredible,” Noah said. “It was like nothing I had ever done before. And when the audience clapped, I felt such energy.”

Dancing is second nature to Noah, who dances five to six days a week at The Gold School in Brockton and is the American Dance Awards’ Junior Male Dancer of the Year 2011. But he had never acted or sung onstage. Nonetheless, at an open casting call in New York City in September, the casting director was won over by his dancing talent and his first attempts at singing and acting. He was called back to audition again for two full days in January, and he found out he got the part in February.

That doesn’t surprise his teacher, Rennie Gold, the school’s owner and director. “Noah is mature beyond his years when it comes to how he trains,” said Gold, who has taught Noah jazz, modern, ballet and tap since he was 7. “He’s very focused and learns quickly. When he first came to the school, I saw that he had tremendous potential.”

“Footloose” actor and Stoughton native Kenny Wormald also got his start at The Gold School.

Noah is a compact bundle of talent, who moves with the good posture and grace common to dancers. At ease in conversation, he has a warm smile, large, expressive blue eyes with long lashes and well-proportioned features. He also remains humble, aware of how much more he can learn. “There’s still a lot more for me to develop,” he said. “(As Billy Elliot) I’m very angry most of the time, and I’m working on showing shades of anger.”

To learn the part, Noah has worked harder than he could have imagined – 12 hours a day seven days a week. That included three hours of academic tutoring to finish seventh grade at Sharon Middle School, fitness classes and physical therapy.

“In the beginning, I thought, ‘How am I going to do this?’” he said. “But I learned the part in pieces and then I knew the whole thing.”

Robyn Parets, his mother, stayed in New York with him during the training and travels with him on the tour, where he shares the role with three other performers and is under contract at least through December.

With parents who have encouraged his dancing, Noah doesn’t identify with Billy Elliot’s anger, but he does with his passion. When he sings “Electricity,” Noah expresses how he feels when he dances. “I feel amazing when I dance,” he said. “I feel strong and free. The lyrics in the song make sense to me, because that’s how I feel.”

Like Billy Elliot, Noah became aware of his desire to dance by seeing others do it – penguins in the animated film “Happy Feet” and girls in a tap class. “It just looked like the coolest thing ever,” he recalled. “I kept thinking, ‘How are they making all those noises with their feet?’”

As Billy Elliot, Noah dances many numbers in tap shoes, in particular the challenging, explosive 4 ½  -minute “Angry Dance,” where he releases the anger, frustration and sadness building within him. Since Billy’s mother died, he is raised by his father, a striking miner with troubles of his own who can’t understand his son’s passion for dance.

Robyn Parets said she was overwhelmed with emotion when she saw her son perform for the first time. Parets owns and runs Breath Joy Yoga in Sharon and has a 16-year-old son, Ethan, who sings in an a cappella group and performs in musicals at Sharon High, as well as a 10-year-old stepson.

“I cried the whole time,” she said. “I had never seen him sing or act before and I couldn’t believe what he was doing. And it’s a show that touches on a lot of emotions. You see the support he ends up getting when the family and community come full circle.”

Copyright 2012 The MetroWest Daily News

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