The movie’s star, Jamie Bell, was about 14 years old at the time of filming, and his successors in the role are around the same age. Lomas is 14, McGuier 13 and Mower 12. They were picked from thousands who attended open auditions across the UK. All the children who came through the first round of auditions were offered classes in singing, ballet, tap, street dancing and acrobatics at the Billy Elliot School set up in Leeds. Britain's child labor laws, which require a cast change in the lead role every six months, led to the establishment of the school.
In a press release, the three boys commented on their feelings at being chosen. Lomas said, “[When I started dance lessons in Sheffield], the dance teacher told my mum that I would be the only boy in the class, but I didn’t care. . . I really took to dancing; it was also great working with all the girls!” MacGuire’s call up, he reveals, almost didn’t happen: “On my first audition, by mistake, I left with a group of boys that were asked to leave. I thought it was all over. I was devastated. The next day we had a phone call to say, ‘Where did George go, we want to see him again!’ I’d have never thought I would be here now.” Mower says, “All my dreams are coming true.”
The first night of the highly anticipated stage version of the movie "Billy Elliot" is scheduled for March 24, 2005, with a press night set for May 11. Although in fact, three press nights are now promised, one for each boy — because the show will be subtly altered for each of the child actors.
Originally, Billy Elliot — The Musical was due to open at the Victoria Palace after premiering at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle — the native city of the film's creator, Lee Hall. But the producers were forced to reschedule after the venue (better known as the Newcastle Opera House) was closed last June.
The story of Billy Elliot is set in the North East of England during the miner's strike of the 1980's. The eponymous hero is a sensitive young boy who discovers a talent for ballet. Billy is the only child of a single parent, a macho father who believes that dancing is for girls and that boys are better suited to boxing. The movie marked the cinematic debut of theatre director Stephen Daldry, who will also direct the musical for which Hall has written the book and Elton John the score.
"Billy Elliot—the Musical is the most complex and challenging production I have ever undertaken," said Daldry earlier in 2004. "Finding a boy from the north with exceptional talent has been our primary focus. The vast majority of the children we have seen are not from stage schools, but have managed, like Billy, to overcome extraordinary difficulties in achieving their dreams. Our responsibility is to give them the opportunity to flourish. If we succeed, then next March we'll be presenting the unique experience of watching a new star literally developing before your eyes."
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