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By Rachel Bayne
The Oxford Mail
May 12, 2014


Bobby Ratcliffe, 10, will attend the Barbara Speake Stage School (Oxford Mail) 2014[Oxford, England] – A ballet dancer who dreams of dancing the world’s stages is set to join a top London performing arts school. Ten-year-old Bobby Ratcliffe will follow in the footsteps of super model Naomi Campbell and the lead singer of Genesis Phil Collins when he starts lessons at the Barbara Speake Stage School in London.

The Banbury youngster has also landed himself a second audition for the hit London musical Billy Elliot.

Bobby said: “I used to be the only boy in my class. People say ballet is not for boys, but it is. I just ignore them and just get on with it. I would like to prove them all wrong and I am very excited to go to dance school. I want to be a professional ballet dancer. I love singing as well. I like to sing ballet songs and pop songs and any songs that just come to me as I sing them.”

Bobby was one of 180 young people at the first audition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, He was thrilled to get a callback to play the role of Billy Elliot’s best friend Michael and will be one of 25 young hopefuls at auditions at the end of the month.

The St John’s Priory School pupil has regular lessons at the Susan Taylor Dance Academy in Banbury, where for a long time, he was the only male pupil in attendance.

He said: “I started dancing when I was three years old. It is really exciting news. I think Billy Elliot is really funny. The dancing is really good and the acting is great. I would like to travel all over the world and dance.”

Bobby Ratcliffe, 10, is down to the final 25 in auditions to play Michael in the London production of Billy Elliot (David Flemming) 2014Bobby is one of two pupils who has been awarded a scholarship for the Barbara Speake Stage School in East Acton, and will start classes in September. Pupils study at the performing arts school until the age of 16.

Proud mum Hayley Thompson, 31, who works in child protection at the Warriner School in Bloxham, said: “He has always been a dancer. He does ballet and modern and he just really enjoys it.

“He is constantly watching the movie of Billy Elliot which I now regret buying for him. He has the CD as well and he has started watching the film again to prepare for the audition. I am really proud of him and try to encourage him with his dancing.”

Bobby dreams of starring in the stage production of the film and joked that his favourite moments were watching Billy in his boxing gloves take on his first dance lesson. He said: “It makes me laugh and it is very funny.”


Copyright 2014 Newsquest Ltd.

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 Geralda Miller
The Reno Gazette-Journal
January 4, 2013

[Reno, Nevada, USA] – Logan Strand saw the movie “Happy Feet” and all he wanted after that was to be able to move his feet like Mumble. “Something about that little penguin dancing and being himself kind of moved me,” the 11-year-old said. “They had a little thing where the guy who did the tapping for ‘Happy Feet’ showed you the basic moves and the basic keys of tapping. And I just said to my mom, ‘Mom, I want to do that. I want to do that.’”

His mother, Diane Strand, grew up dancing and performed in MGM Grand’s “Hello Hollywood, Hello,” so she knew to contact Kia Crader, owner and dance teacher at Fascinating Rhythm School of Performing Arts in south Reno, who also performed in the casino production.

Logan was 5 when he put on his first pair of tap shoes in Crader’s boys-only tap class. He’s been dancing ever since. He’s one of 16 children currently performing in the Eldorado Showroom’s holiday production of “Aladdin.”

Although for most of the local children, performing in the Eldorado Showroom might be considered major league, it isn’t for Logan. He’s acted in commercials, had a part in a major film for Paramount Studios, auditioned on Broadway and danced in the Christmas show with the Rockettes in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

“Logan was born for the stage,” Crader said. “He is a funny, intelligent and quirky kid who takes to the stage like a fish to water. He is truly in his element when he is performing.”

Tap dance kid

It started with tap classes every Thursday. Luckily, Crader offered a boys-only class because Logan didn’t want to dance with girls.

“Then all the boys from my boys tap class quit, eventually,” he said. “Then Miss Kia brought me into the girls tap class. I was there with these older girls. From then on, I was only in a few classes where I was with other boys and the rest of the time girls, girls, girls everywhere.”

But tap wasn’t enough. He wanted to take hip-hop dance, jazz and even acting classes. His mom insisted that he first learn ballet. “I’m not going to spend my money on hip-hop and jazz because ballet is the foundation of all dance,” she said. “I said, ‘If you really want to seriously be a dancer, you have to take ballet. I’m just telling you this from a dancer’s perspective.’”

Logan associated ballet with pink tutus, and Strand had to explain that the girls wear the tutus, not the boys. “So he tried it, ended up really liking it and being fairly good at it,” she said.

Logan is passionate about performing, to the point that just to talk about it brings him to tears. “Dancing and acting and just performing, it’s not just something I do, it’s part of my life,” he said. “It’s my life. It’s what I do. Some people think, ‘Oh, that’s just a thing you do. It’s no big deal. You’ll probably forget about it.’ I don’t want to forget about it. And when I do dance or perform, it makes feel like I’m my true self. I feel like I know myself and this is what I’m happy doing.”

Paramount beginnings

Not only did Logan want to dance, he wanted to act. “I kept thinking, the more he tried it, that he would find out it was real work,” Strand said. “Kids see this and they think oh, it’s fun and glamorous. I said, ‘You don’t understand that it’s real work, so I want you to experience what it really is.’” So, mom and her youngest son traveled to Los Angeles to audition at a few agencies. By the end of the trip, he had signed an agent.

Next, the 7-year-old got called to his first audition at Paramount Studios, where he ended up getting hired to play actor Eric Bana’s younger self in the film “Star Trek.” He even shaved his head for the part.

“It ended up after many trips to L.A., hours of him working on set, that they cut the entire scene,” she said. “But it’s in the DVD in the bonus features. And you see J.J. Abrams working with Logan and the boys as they put them in this basement. They had to work in the mud, in the cold.”

But Logan got paid. Now, the professional child actor has a Coogan trust account. “He’s got a nice little nest egg for when he’s an adult,” Strand said. “How many kids can say that? When he was working at Radio City for 20 minutes on stage, he was making more than I ever have as an adult.”

While in Los Angeles, Logan joined more than 300 youths at the Debbie Reynolds Studio to audition. “He went in to audition, and I’m looking at all these kids and saying, ‘There’s no way,’” his mom said. “And he was way taller than all the other kids.”

Logan ended up being fourth on the list and the third child didn’t want the job. “I remember just crying, probably lost 2 pounds from just crying that day because I was so happy,” he said. “I was not their first choice but that’s fine with me. Just being one of their choices is great. I went there and just being in that theater, it was amazing.”

Diane Strand and her son Logan,11,  who began dancing when he was 5 (Photo by Liz Margerum} 2013He worked for four months in Radio City Music Hall, dancing with 70 Rockettes.

Mom couldn’t help but be ecstatic. “I was in heaven,” she said. “I have to admit. As a dancer, that was the ultimate. I was so proud. I was walking two feet off of the sidewalk. Yes, maybe that one time I was living a fantasy through him. But he did that all on his own. I was just along for the ride.”

And what a ride it was.

While in New York, Logan signed with Shirley Grant Management, which is one of the top talent firms for youth. He also auditioned for the Broadway musical “Billy Elliot.” He was placed in a training camp for the character Michael, but the show got canceled in January.

Returning to Reno wasn’t easy. “I don’t know what it was, but emotionally he struggled, coming back and reconnecting with the kids here,” Strand said. “He was really struggling with the bullying and the sense of not knowing what to do.”

Back to reality

Logan said it was difficult at Roy Gomm Elementary School until he was placed in a school program. “It’s been hard,” he said, crying. “There always are those kids who are bullies. I have been called names, like ‘ballerina boy’ and other things. But thankfully, my parents, my family, my friends have always been there to support me through those things.”

Strand also made a big decision for her son.

“I decided it was time to stop, take him off of the books in Los Angeles, take him off the books in New York and just let him have at least a year of trying to stay here, be a kid,” she said. “If there are performance opportunities here he can do, good, fine. But it was becoming too much pressure.”

Although he has plenty of time to make up his mind, right now, Logan is torn about his future. He loves to dance, but he also loves reptiles and thinks it would be fun to be a herpetologist.

“I think as I get older there’s going to be a huge conflict between those two,” he said. “Someday, I’m going to have to decide. I don’t know right now. I’m just shunning that idea. One day, I don’t know. I’ll be whoever I’ll be.”

Copyright © 2013


By John
East Life
February 5, 2012

Two friends, two great talents and one great school – Tring Park pupils, Kaine Ward (aged 12) and Alfie Manser (aged 10) have proved that friendship and talent can sit side by side, especially when nurtured in a place like Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.

Both boys had no expectations when they auditioned for the renowned West End show Billy Elliot back in February 2010; apart from finding out what a West End audition was like. However, their talent for drama and dance was noticed with Kaine securing the title role of Billy Elliot, at the Victoria Palace Theatre while Alfie was asked by the show’s choreographer to star in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End.

Kaine Ward, first started dancing aged 2, when encouraged by his mum, he attended a friend’s local dance school where he performed ballet, tap and modern. His talent was soon noticed and he went on to star in productions of Annie, as Sandy the dog, and in Bugsy Malone as Leroy Smith.

At aged 6, he joined a local drama group where his commitment and passion for drama and dancing continued. By the age of 10, it was obvious that he was destined for greater things and joined specialist dance and performing arts school, Tring Park as a day pupil.

In 2008, he won the School’s Paul Watson bursary, allowing him free evening and weekend dance classes for a year. Within a few weeks, he qualified for the Music and Dance Scheme (MDS) scholarship which allows him to study as a day pupil at the school, a centre of excellence both vocationally and academically.

Then in the Summer of 2011, Kaine got the call which has changed his life forever and propelled him into theatre stardom from the producers of Billy Elliot; asking him to join the cast from November 2011 in the lead role of Billy. As part of the role, Kaine has had to learn a Geordie accent and practice back flips.

Kaine comments, “I couldn’t believe it when we had the call from Billy’s producers inviting me to join the cast. My mum was even more excited than me and burst into tears when we got the news.”

Alfie Manser’s story in some ways parallels that of the character of Billy Elliot. Aged 7, he became obsessed with break-dancing which, in turn, led him to learn how to dance other disciplines such as jazz. However, as his interest and ability grew, his passion started to alienate him at school with his friends teasing him about this dancing to the point when eventually he left school to be home tutored. His mum, realising that it was more than just a hobby for Alfie, decided that he needed to be at a school where he would be supported and surrounded by similar-minded pupils and teachers. In 2009, aged 8, Alfie started at Tring Park as a day pupil in the prep department.

Finding his feet and friends at Tring Park, he soon discovered that a few friends, including Kaine, were going to the Billy Elliot auditions and thought it might be good to see how a West End audition worked so asked if he could accompany them. Encouraged by his friends and family, he ended up auditioning for Billy and although he was too young and small for the role of Billy, Peter Darling, the choreographer, asked him to join the cast of Matilda The Musical as well as invited him to the Billy Elliot summer school.

Alfie plays Nigel, Matilda’s friend, at the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden, two evenings a week, while still attending Tring Park.

Alfie comments, “It has been a rollercoaster of a ride so far. I have always loved dancing from break- dancing through to jazz. Getting into Tring Park to study my passion was just amazing and then to be noticed by Peter Darling and to be invited to join the cast of Matilda The Musical is a dream come true. “

Tring Park for Performing Arts’ Principal, Stefan Anderson, comments, “It is fantastic to see such great talent we have here at Tring, recognised by producers in the West End; one of the most vibrant theatrelands in the world. Kaine and Alfie make us proud of all the students we have here and reflect the real hard work, commitment and passion you have to have to succeed in the industry. We are looking forward to seeing them both treading the boards and enjoying a long and successful career within the performing arts.”

Tring Park for the Performing Arts School is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school, attended by a maximum of 320 pupils between the ages of 8-19.

• Tring Park offers a unique opportunity for gifted young people to specialise in Dance, Drama, Musical Theatre or Music, while gaining an excellent academic education to GCSE, BTEC and ‘A’ level.

• Housed in a former Rothschild mansion and set in beautiful grounds, the School is located in Tring.

• Figures from the Department for Schools, Children and Families for the summer exams 2010 demonstrate that the school provides an “added value” for pupils’ performance that is in the top 25% in the country.

Matilda The Musical is booking until 21 October 2012. For more information visit or call the box office on 0844 800 1110. For press enquiries about the show contact Chloe Pritchard-Gordon on I 020 7494 3665

© 2012 East Magazine

By Jessica Goldstein,
Photographs by Michael Perez
The Washington Post
December 08, 2011

Photo Gallery

It is 9:15 in the morning, and Ty Forhan is waiting outside the Innovation Room at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, sipping from a holiday-red Starbucks cup nearly the size of his head. He cannot believe he is up this early. He is 13 years old.

He shakes his blond hair and says, not in so many words, how very tired he is, drawing out his PG-13 descriptor of choice for emphasis. Ballet class will be followed by eight hours of scene reviews, photo shoots, acrobatics class and more dance rehearsals. Often his day starts with at least an hour of individual tutoring. But this hectic marathon is what will prepare Ty for tonight when he walks on stage as the star of “Billy Elliot,” a role he shares with the four other bedheaded and blurry-eyed boys ambling into the studio. The tour comes to the Kennedy Center Dec. 13.

They love being Billy because they are real-life Billys: bullied ballet dancers turned hometown heroes.

“Billy Elliot,” the Tony Award-winning musical based on the 2000 film of the same name, centers around Billy, a talented English boy who grows to love ballet as his family and neighborhood suffer from the U.K. miners’ strike in the 1980s. Billy’s dreams of attending a ballet school are threatened by his father’s disapproval.

“Let’s get started,” says Matthew Prescott, resident choreographer. “We’re already late. It’s Friday.”  Kylend Hetherington, 14, and J.P. Viernes, 15, break into the YouTube-famous Rebecca Black song: “Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday!

They spread out on the floor to stretch alongside Zach Manske, the 12-year-old from Minnesota who will join the show in Washington, and Lex Ishimoto, 13, who played Billy the night before. They approach the barre and glide from first position to fifth and back again, almost in slow-motion, as if they’re dancing underwater. Piano versions of musical standards play on Prescott’s iPod and Forhan, whose love of Broadway music cannot be overstated, sings along to the hits from “Les Miserables.”

Prescott motivates with Oprah-style maxims. “These are your bodies, take charge of them. It’s all an extension of you, of your personality. There’s no reason for you not to come in here and express yourself.”

Lex and Zach immediately start snapping like the Jets in “West Side Story” and break into one of Billy Elliot’s most gleeful songs, “What’s wrong with expressing yourself? For trying to be free? If you wanna be a dancer, dance!

“Yes!” Prescott claps his hands. “That is what the whole show is. That is what Billy is about.”

* * *

Lex wants to make it very clear: “There is nothing going on between me and one of the Ballet Girls.”

The BGs, in cast shorthand, are eight ballerinas between 10 and 14 who make up Billy’s dance class in the show. They don tutus and pigtails while doing some heavy theatrical lifting, performing in seven of the show’s 15 numbers. They are exactly as cute as they sound. But the boys would like to reiterate: the relationship is strictly professional.

“There’s nothing going on,” says J.P.

“Not at the moment,” Kylend clarifies.

“Even though one of the girls started a rumor that there was!” says Ty, setting the record straight.

They’ve just returned from a brief sightseeing break, a stop outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the “Rocky steps” made famous by the Sylvester Stallone movies (a series which, appropriately enough, follows the travail and ultimate triumph of an underdog).

“We put a tutu on the Rocky statue,” reported Lex.

Now the boys are eating lunch, swiping french fries from one another as they wrap up just about the only downtime they’ll get all day. Though the work is virtually nonstop, they’re having fun—certainly more fun than they had in school.

“I hated elementary school,” says Kylend. “It was the worst five years of my life. Because I was a guy who liked to dance. Like Billy.”

The other boys nod vigorously. Each was the only male in his dance class, Zach the only one in his entire studio.

“My parents were okay with it,” says J.P. “But the first time I danced . . . they were saying, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to try anything else?’ Especially my aunts and uncles. . . . They were like, ‘Why is a boy dancing? That’s gay.’ But my parents supported me. They saw that I was really happy.”

Now that they’re the stars of the show, their foes have become their fans. “I came back to school for a month during ‘Billy Elliot,’ ” said J.P. “And these people I never even talked to in my life were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re like, my best friend! You have so much money now!’ And I was like, ‘Um, nice to meet you?”

After being laughed at, says Lex, “We get the last laugh.”

The trajectory of Billy mirrors their own: They’re outsiders who get to be the ultimate insiders, finally surrounded by people who think there’s nothing cooler than a guy who comes with his own tap shoes.

“Ty is such a dancer,” Kylend says. “We’ll be at the mall and he’ll pull out, like, six pirouettes.”

“He started singing before we got here just now,” says J.P.

“We get in the van together, and he belts out Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ or ‘Defying Gravity’ from ‘Wicked,’ ” says Kylend. “Full-on belting. It was awesome.”

Ty sings, “I LOVE musical theater!” in a high, trill voice, and everyone laughs. Ty has probably found the largest group of adolescent guys in America who would categorize spontaneous public singing as “awesome.”

“It’s really kind of amazing because we’re all like family,” says Kylend. “I never got that back at home and now I get it every day.”

* * *

After acrobatics class, Kylend and his mom, Karon, leave the Kimmel Center for the Academy of Music down the street, where he has scene rehearsals. All the boys travel with chaperones and stay in the same hotel (adult cast members stay in nearby accommodations). Karon remembers the teasing as clearly as Kylend does.

“Girls were worse than boys,” she says. “They were jealous of what he could do. But all the kids were mean. He never got invited to a birthday party. Never got invited to a sleepover.

“He played soccer and baseball, and he was good. But he’d be doing pirouettes in the outfield.”

Karon was a cheerleader in high school, and she worries her son will miss out on homecoming dances and pep rallies, the typical teen tropes John Hughes movies are made of. And “Billy Elliot” is a rough gig for a parent. Her husband and other son are at home in L.A. with the family dog while she and Kylend tour.

But she feels the sacrifice is more than worth it. “I told him that if he got Billy, he’d make his best friends for life, because they would get him.”

“And I did,” he pipes in.

She hugs him goodbye and watches him run into rehearsal. “I have to just support him in what he loves to do.”

* * *

The “Billy Elliot” tour is open-ended, but whenever it’s over, J.P. looks forward to attending a traditional high school back home in San Francisco. He wants to focus on math and science, his favorite subjects.

“I love you, J.P.,” Kylend says when he hears this. “But what kind of idiot would go from ‘Billy Elliot’ to high school?” He spits the words “high school” out as though they’re the name of some disgusting, highly contagious disease. Kylend plans to head to L.A. and try his luck at television and movies.

Zach wants to attend an arts high school, and Lex, from Irvine, Calif., is hoping to continue with dance; his specialty is hip-hop. Ty, an Ontario native, just wants to keep doing what he’s doing, though he’s bound to hit a rough patch soon: too old for children’s roles, too young for male leads.

But tonight that doesn’t matter because Ty is Billy Elliot, and the show is about to end. He is tapping through “Finale,” his favorite number. The clackety-clack of the cast’s feet fills the theater, and the audience is in standing-ovation mode, clapping along. Though Ty has spent the night speaking in Billy’s Geordie accent (sample dialogue: “Just becoz I do ballih dohsin’t mean I’m a pouf”), he wears a goofy grin that is pure Ty.

“Billy’s actually just a normal person,” J.P. said earlier that day. “Not ‘A character! In a musical!’ People can identify with him. Even if they don’t dance, they can recognize his struggle.”

Meanwhile the song is ending, the bows are wrapping up, and the cast sings the last words of the show, a reprise of “Expressing Yourself”: “Everyone is different, it’s a natural thing, it’s a fact that’s plain to see . . . What we need is in-di-vid-u-a-li-ty!”

Billy Elliot

Opens Tuesday. Through Jan. 15. Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St. NW,, 202-467-4600

© 2011 The Washington Post

The Standard
November 05, 2011

Cameron Holmes has landed the “supercalifrag’’ job of a lifetime. At just 12, the Minchinbury Public School student is playing the lead role of Michael Banks in Mary Poppins the Musical at the Capitol Theatre.

“I feel very honoured and really happy to be in a musical with people I have always looked up to,’’ he said.

Cameron was able to work with singer and actress Marina Prior who also starred in the production as Mrs Banks.

The lead role is a natural fit for the young performer, who has trained in ballet at Donna Jean’s Danceforce.

The dance school is run by Cameron’s mother Donna, who has helped him develop the skills needed for performing.

Despite a busy performing schedule, he juggles school and tutoring and his friends and teachers have watched him perform.“There was a big reaction they were excited too,’’ Cameron said.

Donna said nobody realised how big her son’s role was until they saw him perform.

“He could have a big future he is only 12 but you never know,’’ she said.


In 2008 he performed in Billy Elliot the Musical

In 2011 he landed the role of Michael Banks in Mary Poppins the Musical.

Cameron spent March and April rehearsing in Melbourne for the role.

He was selected to perform in the show’s opening night at the Capitol Theatre

He will continue performing in two shows a week until December

He performed at the 2011 Helpmann Awards at the Sydney Opera House

© 2011 News Community Media

Related Articles: Minchinbury’s own Billy Elliot

                          World at his feet

By: Casey Phillips
Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee
Chattanooga Times Free Press
December 14, 2010


It didn’t take Alex Griffith long to fall in love with acting. Just a year after taking the stage for the first time, Alex, 12, has already decided acting is what he wants to do for life. “I get a thrill out of acting,” Alex said. “Once you start, if you like it enough, you can’t stop. You just want to keep doing it more and more.”


Alex said he was already head over heels last December before he finished his first performance as the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre’s Youth Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Although Alex first auditioned for the role of Tiny Tim, Theatre Centre producing director George Quick said he was so impressed he decided to cast him in a larger role. The Ghost was a more involving part, especially for an untried actor, but Quick said he was confident in Alex’s abilities.

“I was amazingly impressed with him, right from the get-go, because of the fact that he, quite fearlessly, jumped in and did what was asked of him,” Quick said. “He has an innate talent and understanding that is a little beyond his years for things like style and accent and character motivation.”

After aiding Ebenezer Scrooge’s change of heart, Alex returned to the Chattanooga Theatre Centre stage in February as Si Crowell in a production of Thornton’s Wilder’s play “Our Town.” This summer, he took on his first leading role as Jess Aarons in the Theatre Centre production of “Bridge to Terabithia.”

Alex also recently began exploring a new artistic path as a party boy in Chattanooga Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Although he’s not a fan of wearing tights or dancing, he said he appreciated the chance to broaden his horizons. “It’s definitely good to get the experience,” he said. “That’s giving me the experience for anything I would need to be in a big play in a major role.”

Alex’s father and mother, Rick Griffith and Donna Griffith, have used his involvement in the arts as a way to bring the family closer together. Rick Griffith has helped build stage props for original scripts Alex began writing last year, and both he and Alex’s mother regularly volunteer at the Theatre Centre.

Even after seeing his son take the stage more than a dozen times in “Bridge to Terabithia,” Rick Griffith said he wasn’t alone in being moved by his son’s performance. “He brought me to tears several times,” Griffith said. “I’m getting teared up now just thinking about it. Just watching him and the way he’s grown in such a short time and having a God-given talent — the fact that he acknowledges that is a big deal for me.”


Copyright ©2010, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc

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