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Euan Garrett, 12, is Billy Elliot (SWNS - RealFix) 2015
December 7, 2015


[London, England] – A 12-year-old boy who prefers dancing to fighting has landed the leading role in the West End production of Billy Elliot. Euan Garrett had been a brown and white belt in karate, rugby player and runner before taking up ballet just one year ago. But he has now landed the lead role in the London West End production which is based on a boy who would rather be a dancer than a boxer.

The youngster from North Berwick, East Lothian, went through an intensive six months of training before finally taking to the stage at Victoria Palace Theatre last month.

Dad John Garrett, 51, said Euan had initially needed some convincing to take up ballet.

He said: “Euan only started dancing when he was seven, but as soon as he did, we all knew he was born to dance.

Euan Garrett, 12, on stage as Billy Elliot (SWNS - RealFix) 2015“We used to take him to rugby and karate, which he really enjoyed, and then he started a dance class at Law Primary School where he was a pupil. He really enjoyed it and after a few sessions, the teacher told us we ought to take him to professional dance classes because she could see talent. She recommended ballet, but Euan is a typical boy and at first, he said no – in his eyes that wasn’t cool.”

But in the months that followed, the youngster fell in love with dance, and decided to seek professional training. He was a dedicated pupil of Julie Friar at the Dunbar School of Dancing and repeatedly practised his audition routine with her.

She said: “As soon as Euan started dancing at my school I knew he had something special. Euan had a goal he wanted to achieve. It’s all about the work the pupils put in. It’s amazing one of my former students is now on the West End. I’m so proud of him. He’s a very talented young man and exceptionally hardworking.”

His mum Dawn Adam, 49, added that she is very proud of her Euan after landing a big role only a year after appearing in a local dance display.

She said: “Euan and Julie spent hours preparing for his final audition together. It’s scary to think this time last year he was performing in his local dance display and now he’s on London’s West End. We are so proud of him.”

Before landing his West End role, Euan was also a Scottish Ballet Junior associate, and performed in Lord of the Flies as well as Scottish Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker.

Speaking of his debut as Billy, Euan said: “It’s just amazing because it’s always been my dream role. I feel very special because only a few boys have played the part of Billy Elliot in London. I was just so excited when I found out I had got the role.”

The musical is based on the film Billy Elliot which was released in 2000. It is set in County Durham during the miners’ strike when Billy, a young boxer, discovers a love of ballet.

Euan is expected to play the role for at least a year.


Copyright © 2015 real fix.



Two young dynamos fill the big dancing shoes of musical’s title role


Ethan Ribeiro, 14, (right) and Eamon Stocks, 15 are highly committed actors who have been preparing for Billy Elliot in rehearsal spaces at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet since Sept. 10 (Ruth Bonneville, Winnipeg Free Press) 2015


By Randall King
Winnipeg Free Press
January 13, 2015


[Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada] – When it comes to placing Billy Elliot the Musical in its proper context within the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s 2015-16 schedule, RMTC artistic director Steven Schipper doesn’t hesitate to describe it as their tent-pole show of the season.

Indeed, it comes to the Winnipeg stage bearing the laurels of a monster musical hit since it premièred on the London stage in 2005, featuring music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall (who scripted the 2000 film on which the play was based). After opening on Broadway in 2008, it went on to be nominated for 15 Tony Awards, winning 10, including best musical.

In short, Billy Elliot is a big deal. It’s somehow all the more exciting that the success of the Winnipeg iteration of the musical rests on the shoulders of a couple of Ontario kids who have yet to blow out 16 candles.

Eamon Stocks, who just turned 15, hails from Whitby. Ethan Ribeiro, 14, comes from Kitchener. On alternating days, they’ll take turns playing the demanding role of Billy, a motherless 12-year-old being raised in the tough environs of a North East England mining community during the miners strike of 1984-85. Compounding Billy’s challenges, he nurtures a passion for dance when his dad would rather he took up the more macho activity of boxing.

It is an understatement to say the role requires much of its performers, even beyond the triple-threat requirements of singing, dancing and acting.

“In terms of the Billys, we were fortunate to find two,” says Schipper, who also directs this production. “Because there weren’t three.

“We saw a little over a dozen young men from all across the country. In the end, they were the only two who could do it.”

Of course, they’re also different. They even sing in different keys.

“They bring different strengths and they bring slightly different interpretations, only because they’re using their own humanity,” Schipper says. “They process the story of the play using their own emotions. But they’re both on the same beats in every moment that the story requires and their fellow actors require,” he says. “So everyone in the company is still getting what they need from Billy. I have no qualms about which night our audience sees. They’re both excellent.”

They are also both highly committed actors who have been preparing for their performances in rehearsal spaces at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet since Sept. 10.

Eamon, who has been studying singing, dancing and acting since he was six, has had his eye on the role of Billy since the show hit Toronto in 2011. “Obviously, I was a bit too young for it then,” he says. “But it was a fantastic experience auditioning, and then after, I saw the show and it was absolutely fantastic and it inspired me so much to continue my training in dance. And when I got the opportunity to audition for this huge role that I’d been longing to do since I was 10, I jumped on it immediately.”

Ethan came to the role as a trained dancer, but needed to catch up in the singing and acting, a challenge he has embraced. “It’s a lot different than what I’m used to, which is just straight dancing,” he says. “It’s meant really long days. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because I can see that I’m getting better. And I’m growing by doing this.”

“The most challenging thing about this is building up stamina,” says Eamon. “The whole show is about two hours and 15 minutes and in that run time, we have seven dance numbers, some of which are back to back.

“The biggest for Billy is Electricity, this huge song in the second act, where he has to go from singing to 2 1/2 minutes of intense ballet, back to singing, and then doing some more dancing again.

“So it’s not just stamina for dancing, it’s also finding those breaths to continue singing,” Eamon says. “There was many a time during training when Ethan and I, after three hours of dancing, we just threw ourselves on the floor.” He adds they’ve since built up their endurance: “We were able to make it through the show without oxygen tanks.”

Unlike the character they play, both Eamon and Ethan have had their talents nurtured by their families. But each actor can still relate to Billy’s struggle. “I think (we) are a lot alike because I moved away from home and went to a ballet school and now I’m doing this big role — and Billy does that too,” Ethan says, adding he will be returning to the RWB this summer to further his dance studies on a scholarship.

Eamon says he especially relates to the play’s message about being true to yourself. “In one of the play’s biggest songs, The Letter, Billy is reading this letter written by his dead mother and she writes: ‘In everything you do, always be yourself.’ ” Eamon says. “And when he discovered something he was really passionate about — dance — he didn’t care what anybody else thought of it. When he was dancing, there was no feeling quite like it.

“And that’s how I feel when I’m dancing,” he says. “When I’m onstage, there’s no feeling that can quite match what it’s like, dancing in front of an audience of hundreds of people.”


Copyright 2016 Winnipeg Free Press


Read more about Eamon: Young dancer leaps to new heights

By Jessie Moniz Hardy
The Royal Gazette
May 1, 2014


Ravi Cannonier-Watson, 9 years-old (The Royal Gazette) 2014[Bermuda, British Overseas Territory] – A Bermudian ballet dancer is taking a shot at the big leagues, and he is only nine years old. Ravi Cannonier, son of Sophia Cannonier and Michael Watson, will be auditioning for the role of Billy in the hit London musical Billy Elliot based on the 2000 film.

The musical opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London in 2005. Recently, the show has been doing a tour of England. Ravi will audition in Manchester, their last stop on the tour.

Billy Elliot tells the story of a working-class boy in County Durham, England who accidentally stumbles into a ballet class on the way to a boxing class. He finds he likes ballet, but his family and community does not approve of boys dancing. The story is told against the backdrop of the United Kingdom Miners strike of 1984 and 1985.

Unlike Billy Elliot, Ravi had the full support of his parents when he first signed up for ballet classes. His mother, Sophia, started dancing as a child and now teaches fitness classes with her husband, Michael Watson.

Ravi became interested in ballet, because his mother would take him along when she co-taught a ballet class at the Bermuda School of Russian Ballet. “I have been dancing for three years,” Ravi said. “When my mother first took me to watch the class while she taught, I was bored, but then I got interested. I told my mom I wanted to dance and she said, ‘wow, really?’”

He started taking a ballet class, but was a bit unnerved to find himself the only boy in the class. “It was scary,” he said. “Every time I went home, me and dad would play games on the computer like Raft Wars and things like that, guy stuff,” Ravi said.

Seeing his interest, the Russian School of Ballet started a ballet class just for boys. To Ravi’s extreme relief, he then had other boys to work with. His ballet teachers include Coral Waddell and Katina Woodley. “It is important that boys are around other boys so they learn boy mannerisms when they are dancing,” said Ms Cannonier.

From there he also started taking a boys hip hop class at Jackson’s School of Performing Arts, taught by Angelina Simas. “It is awesome,” Ravi said.

Ravi Cannonier-Watson, 9, in his boys' hip hop class at the Jackson's School of Performing Arts (Photo by Akil Simmons) 2014

When Ms Cannonier heard that the Billy Elliot musical was holding auditions she wanted Ravi to try out for the lead, Billy Elliot. This was easier said than done. First, she had to explain to the musical managers that Bermudians have the right to live and work in Britain. Then she had to get special permission for Ravi to work as an actor in Britain, as he is a minor.

“We are taking this one step at a time,” she said. “He is home schooled. We found out the audition was happening last November. We have prepared by getting him singing classes twice a week. He also takes ballet, gymnastics, hip hop, and karate lessons. He has actually been doing karate since he was three years old. He is coming up to be a purple belt. We don’t know what the outcome will be. It has been a very nice preparation and this will bring it to fruition. We are not promised a role.”

Ravi’s father will take him to London to audition on May 15 in Manchester. “We will make a weekend of it,” said Mr Watson. “For us it is to see how he fares. I have no idea what the audition process will be like. I have never been through that process before. We will have fun together, and just see what happens. I always wished I’d danced when I was younger. Doing what I do now, I really appreciate what dance does for people. Those people who have gone through dance carries that with them through life. You have to be agile and rhythmic. It makes strong character as well.”

Ravi said he was a little unsure whether he wanted to move to the United Kingdom, but he was taking everything one step at a time.

Ravi Cannonier-Watson, 9, is trying out for hit London musical, Billy Elliot (Photo by Akil Simmons) 2014“It is not often that a young boy can audition for the role of Billy Elliot,” said Ms Cannonier. “He needs to be below a certain height, and his voice can not have been broken. He needs to be between nine and 12 years old, so he is perfect for it.”

The musical organisers are always auditioning for new Billy Elliots, because the actors outgrow the part, quickly.

Ms Cannonier said when she was Ravi’s age, she was demonstrating for the Bermuda School of Russian Ballet in Boston. “My teacher, Patricia Deane-Gray, took me under her wing,” she said. “I travelled to Boston to demonstrate technique. That was my first trip away from home. Two years after that I went to what is now Croatia to study ballet. I have been used to travelling to dance since a young age. Pat (Deane-Gray) gave Ravi his early ballet lessons, before he started in with the boys’ class.”

In his spare time, Ravi said he likes to play computer games such as Lego Minecraft.


© Copyright 2014 The Royal Gazette



By Janet Smith
The Vancouver Free Press
March 28, 2013

Noah Parets star in Billy Elliot (Photograph by Ann Boyle) 2012Noah Parets is a kid who loves to dance and dreams of making it big, and in Billy Elliot, he plays one, too.

On the surface, actor and character would seem to have a lot in common. But the story, once a hit movie that has since been turned into a Tony-winning, Elton John–scored Broadway musical, describes how young Billy has to fight against his own family’s notions of manhood in his quest to become a dancer. Parets, a 13-year-old from Massachusetts, has found nothing but support in his home, however. In fact, the first time he saw the show, he recalls, his mother turned to him and said, “I could see you doing that.”

But while he relaxes in West Palm Beach, Florida, before playing the role—one so gruelling he has to share it with three other boys—Parets admits there were other obstacles to following his dream.

“I was lucky that nobody came up to me and said, ‘Don’t dance,’ but I definitely was an outcast at school. They thought I was weird and I wasn’t cool because I wasn’t on the football team,” says Parets, who has studied ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary from a young age. Still, no kind of teasing or shunning could dissuade the budding dance star from his quest. “It means so much to me that I could never stop dancing. It’s my passion.”

That’s the kind of dedication it takes to tackle this touring show. Not only is Parets on the road, with his mom, for huge chunks of the year—when he takes the stage, he stays there for about 90 percent of the production, pulling off increasingly killer moves as Elliot tries to escape his small, Northern England mining town and get into the Royal Ballet School.

Parets’s schedule off-stage is just as demanding. “On the first day in a city, we’ll have school for about five hours, and cardio training and then any needed rehearsals and an acrobatic class as well. Then we have to be at the theatre an hour and a half before the show starts for preshow safety things.” Parets loves the acrobatics the most; he’d never done it before but now can pull off a mean back flip.

Not surprisingly, the cast and crew have become a second family to Parets, who insists he tries to find plenty of time for play. “We hang out with the other kids. There’s actually 17 kids on this production, so we watch TV or hang out at the pool,” he says.

Still, the production is not all fun and games—behind the scenes, or in the action on-stage, as it turns out.

It has a darker theatrical depth than a lot of glitzy touring shows. One of its most tormented characters is Billy’s older brother Tony, a coal miner who chastises the boy for wanting to become a dancer. Cullen Titmas, who is somewhere around his 460th performance as Tony when we reach him further up the tour road in Peoria, Illinois, seems to relish the meaty role.

“Sometimes he’s just trying to protect the people that he loves the most,” he explains. “He’s finding it hard to concede he’s worked his whole life to survive in this community and it’s hard for him to believe that money they don’t have is going to go toward this kid who wants to dance. I like to call it the play within the musical.”

While Parets’s biggest challenge is definitely the fancy footwork, Titmas has a little more strain on his vocal cords. “I’ve done shows where I’ve done a lot of singing, and Avenue Q [which he toured with for two years] had a lot of different voices,” he says. “But when I started this role I had a lot of vocal issues, because he [Tony] does a lot of screaming.”

The unfortunate side effect of all that anger, he sometimes thinks, is that the kids don’t want to get too close to him when he’s off the stage. That doesn’t mean he fails to marvel at the discipline and talent of the young Billys he works with: most of them are high achievers who are excelling beyond their grade levels at school while becoming Broadway stars.

And each one of them, it turns out, has a different relationship with their “big brother” when they hit the stage. “We have four Billys right now, and they’re all very different,” Titmas says. “The veteran is 15 now and he’s very big and almost my size, so I have to play that different than from Mitchell [Tobin], who’s this tiny kid. That keeps it fresh.”

The role of Billy demands a range of emotions as well, from frustration to the ecstatic heights of the show’s great dance numbers. The role is an endurance test, the young Parets good-naturedly admits, but an enthusiastic crowd can compensate for that. “The audience helps so much to keep up my energy,” he says. “It’s so much when they laugh and clap, and you want to do a better show for them.”

Billy Elliot is at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from Tuesday to next Sunday (April 2 to 7).

© 2013 Vancouver Free Press

Related Article: Noah Parets stars in ‘Billy Elliot’

By Hap Erstein
The Palm Beach Post
March 3, 2013

Mitchell Tobin, 12, Billy Elliot, The Musical 2013[Boca Raton, Florida, USA] – It is a long way from singing and dancing on the living room coffee table to starring in a hit Broadway musical that tours the performing arts centers of the nation. But that is the journey of 12-year-old Mitchell Tobin of Boca Raton, who appears this week at the Kravis Center as “Billy Elliot,” in the musical about a Northern England coal miner’s son who yearns to dance.

A student at the Bak Middle School of the Arts, Tobin can pinpoint the time he realized what he wanted to do with his talents. “I’ve been wanting to be in ‘Billy Elliot’ for almost four years, ever since I saw the show when I was nine,” he says.

Recalling that first exposure to the 10-time Tony Award-winning show with songs by Elton John, Tobin adds, “I was speechless. I knew I had to get this role. It was my dream to do it.”

Of this jump-start towards a professional career, Mitchell’s mother Valerie, who travels with him on tour, says, “I sort of thought it was what he was destined to, but I really didn’t think it would happen this early, honestly.”

Mitchell began dancing at the age of 3, tagging along to his older sister’s dance classes. By 4, he was vying in dance competitions and performing solos by the time he was 5.

By [age] 9, a casting director for “Billy Elliot” saw him dance at an open call in Orlando. “She saw something in him and would call me every year and would have me bring him back for a follow-up,” says Tobin. Small for his age, it was not until Mitchell grew enough to fit the role that the auditioning began in earnest.

“He moved me quite a bit because he could immediately tap into the emotional qualities, the emotional aspects, of Billy,” recalls Steven Minning, who directs the national tour. “I was quite moved that a boy of that age could have access to those emotions.”

The Tour Billys (l-r Mitchell Tobin, Noah Parets, Drew Minard, Ben Cook) 2013

It took Mitchell four auditions to earn the coveted role of a small town boy who goes from boxing to ballet and discovers his true self. He became one of four boys to play Billy Elliot in rotation. Once he was cast, the intensive training began. “We had about five weeks to learn the part,” says Mitchell. “It was very stressful, because we had to learn the role in such a fast period of time, but it was fun at the same time.” His mother recalls the rehearsals as “pretty grueling. Twelve hours a day, six days a week, which included three hours of tutoring. And he had to learn a dialect.”

Within the broad confines of the role, the boys are encouraged to bring their own personalities to Billy. “We cast Mitchell because he’s Mitchell,” says Minning. “He has an impish quality, he’s very smart, he’s always thinking ahead. And there was just something quite charismatic about Mitchell. His zest for life really jumps out. That’s who his Billy is.”

Touring week in and week out has been a strain on the Tobins, but the family has been very supportive of Mitchell. His mother has put her nursing career on pause and his brother and sister are resources from a distance. “Whenever I need to talk to someone about my technique or I need some advice, I know I can always go to my sister. She was like my dance teacher at home, critiquing my dances,” explains Mitchell. “My brother, if I‘m ever ticked off about anything, I can always talk to him and he’ll help me be less mad.”

The role requires Mitchell to be proficient in tap, ballet, modern dance and a bit of hip-hop. He was already a competitive tap champion, and he picked up the other dance styles in rehearsals.

Asked to name a favorite number he performs, Mitchell quickly mentions his second act solo, “Electricity.” “I think that’s a part I do really well, because I let all my emotions out and I get to lose myself onstage.”

Mitchell Tobin (Billy) in Billy Elliot the Musical (Photo by Amy Boyle) 2013Then he quickly adds, “No, my favorite number is ‘Dream Ballet,’ where Billy’s all alone in a room and he turns off the lights and he just loses himself in this beautiful dancing. At one time in it, I get to soar above the stage and spin all the way up to the ceiling. I love doing it, it’s so much fun.”

The first time his mom saw Mitchell in the show, she was floored. “It’s indescribable. It was totally surreal. I pretty much cried through the whole show,” she says. “It was pretty amazing.”

He has been playing Billy since December and has a six-month renewable contract that runs through May. Minning notes that the “average shelf life” for youngsters in the role is a year and a half, but Mitchell might be able to stay in longer because of his relatively tiny size. Or he might find a role that intrigues him more before outgrowing this one. “I’m just going to take myself where life tells me to go,” Mitchell says philosophically. “If I see a role that I’m really interested in, I’m going to try to get that role like I did with Billy.”

There are so many factors, including blind luck, in a performer’s ability to sustain a career, but Minning is confident that Mitchell has the talent for it. “They’re so young, but he’s an intelligent young man, so if he decides to put his mind to it, I don’t see why he couldn’t.”

Certainly Mitchell has the desire. “Yes,” he says without hesitation, “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

© 2013 Cox Media Group

Related Article:

Being Billy is a dream come true for 12-year-old Mitchell Tobin

By Alec Harvey
Alabama Live
January 31, 2013

Rich Hebert is Dad, and Mitchell Tobin is Billy in Billy Elliot (Photo by Amy Boyle)Many kids this fall had tales from summer camp.

Mitchell Tobin had his own camp stories to tell, but these were from “Billy Camp.” The 12-year-old spent weeks in Billy Camp with another kid, prepping to join the national tour of “Billy Elliot” that comes to Birmingham next week [February 5-10].

“My first audition for the show was when I was 9, and I didn’t really know what the role was or what the show was all about,” Mitchell says. “That same summer, I went to the show to see it. When I saw what Billy did, I knew I wanted to do it.”

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© 2013 Alabama Live LLC

Any male dancer could relate to the story of a boy who discovers a talent for ballet, says the touring musical’s choreographer

By Victor Swoboda,
The Montreal Gazette Dance Critic
Photograph: Doug Blemker
January 4, 2013

Noah Parets, 13, as Billy Elliot (Photo by Doug Blemker) 2012-02Thanks to the popularity of hip hop and to think-you-can-dance TV shows, the image of the male dancer has risen on young people’s scale of what’s cool. Ballet remains, however, a dicey proposition for boys. Partly because of the tough-guy street culture surrounding urban dance, boys can take up hip hop without fear of the kind of peer ridicule that’s directed at a guy who wants to study classical dance.

Read more:

© Copyright 2013 The Montreal Gazette

Boys who dance the role of Billy Elliot often have experiences similar to his

By Peter Robb,
Ottawa Citizen
December 22, 2012

Drew Minard, Billy Elliot the Musical 2012Perhaps no major theatrical enterprise around today depends so much on the strong legs of a 12-year-old boy as does Billy Elliot The Musical. Billy is on stage for the duration of the show. He must look like an 11- to 12-year-old, be no taller than four foot 10 inches and be able to dance and sing and speak.

The original director of the musical compared the role to playing Hamlet while running a marathon.

Being Billy is not for the faint-of-heart. The demands of the role mean that there are always four Billys on hand for the touring production to draw upon.

One of the Billys who will perform in Ottawa when the run begins here New Years Day is 12-year-old Drew Minard of Des Moines, Iowa.

Read more:

© Copyright The Ottawa Citizen

Related Articles:

Drew Minard, 12, will be next ‘Billy Elliot’

Young Ballet Des Moines dancer wins big in New York

Drew is setting his sights to dance on Broadway

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