The movie, about a young boy who dreams of becoming a ballet star, was directed by ex-Royal Court boss Stephen Daldry, who will also direct the stage show. He was Oscar-nominated for his work on the film, as was Julie Walters as Billy’s ballet teacher and Lee Hall for his screenplay. Walters is not expected to feature in the theatre version.
Meanwhile, Daldry has been hunting for three boys to alternate the title role (after the film's star Jamie Bell made it clear he wasn't interested). Auditions have been held across Britain for boys who are exceptional in tap, ballet and contemporary dance as well as singing and gymnastics.
According to a Daldry interview with the BBC, the idea to make a stage musical from the movie originated from Elton John. “He came to see one of the early showings of the film,” Daldry told the broadcaster, “and his response was so strong, he really came up with the suggestion, ‘Is there anything we can do on stage?’” John is writing the songs.
The news that Billy will reach the British stage at the end of 2004 (with an announcement as to which London theatre it will play expected within weeks) adds to the crowded schedule for big musicals. Roughly the same period will see the openings of at least three other major players: Mary Poppins from Cameron Mackintosh and Disney (John’s one-time producer, of The Lion King and Aida); The Woman In White by Andrew Lloyd Webber; and The Producers by Mel Brooks.
Other shows in the pipeline, likely to open in 2005, include a musical version of Brighton Rock by John Barry and Don Black (the duo behind Billy — Liar rather than Elliot — and many movie songs); and another musicalization of a movie, Bend It Like Beckham. And, of course, 2005 will also see what’s being hyped as the most expensive musical ever — The Lord of the Rings, with music by A.R. Rahman, to be directed by Matthew Warchus.