Meet the Billys – London: Billy Elliot the Musical
Author’s Note: The profiles contained in this article are continually updated to stay current with the most up-to-date information. Last update: 17-May-2013.
On May 12, 2005, the official Opening Night of the very first production of Billy Elliot the Musical took place in London's West End. That night, Billy was portrayed by George Maguire. For the curtain calls, he was joined onstage by the other two originating Billys -- James Lomas and Liam Mower.
On May 12 2012, Billy Elliot the Musical marked the 7th Anniversary of that Opening Night in the West End. Since those days in 2005, 30 boys -- all with extraordinary talent -- have brought the title role to life at the Victoria Palace Theatre (VPT). In this article, we'll introduce you to the young men who currently portray Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical in the West End of London. They are Harris Beattie, Tade Biesinger, Harrison Dowzell, Redmand Rance and Ali Rasul.
Please note: 13 Billys -- Tanner Pflueger, Brad Wilson, Fox Jackson Keen, Tom Holland, Ollie Gardner, Aaron Watson, Rhys Yeomans, Scott McKenzie, Dean Charles Chapman, Josh Baker, Adam Vesperman, Ryan Collinson and Kaine Ward have departed from the London show since September 1, 2009. Their profiles can be found in the Meet the Billys: Profiles Archive .
Note: To see captions for pictures in this article, just run your cursor over a picture.
Harris Beattie is 14-years-old (D.O.B. 30-Sep-1998) and hails from Bieldside, a suburb of Aberdeen, Scotland. His grandfather, who died before he was born, was the famous Scottish entertainer, Andy Stewart. With his debut on Wednesday evening, February 22, 2012, Harris becomes the 29th boy to play the title role on the London stage and is the 63rd Billy world-wide in Billy Elliot the Musical.
He started his ballet training at the age of seven. He currently takes dance instruction at Danscentre in Aberdeen, where he credits teacher Karen Berry with being very instrumental with his development as a dancer. Says Karen of her student "Harris is one of the most modest, unassuming and talented children that I have come across in all my years of teaching. He is an utter delight to work with and coupled with his excellent work ethic – I am sure that he will go very far. Harris is one of over 80 boys who now attend classes at Danscentre, Aberdeen. Dancing is the norm for boys in Aberdeen and it’s just fantastic to have the opportunity to work with so many talented young men."
Harris, who is the youngest of four children, lost his beloved Mum in 2009, when he was 10. Since then, he has lived with his mother's sister, who is his guardian, and his uncle. To them he is dedicating his first performance as Billy saying "I would like to dedicate my first performance to my Auntie Debbie and Uncle Keith, they have done so much for me, I can’t thank them enough."
Harris was a winner in his age level of the Genée Dance Challenge 2010, which took place at Birmingham Royal Ballet from 26 - 31 July, 2010. Two winners were selected from each of the three levels (by age) and won the opportunity to perform at Supper with the Stars on the evening of the Saturday 20 November 2010. They also received two tickets to the Genée Final at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, on Sunday 21 November, 2010 inclusive of travel and one night’s accommodation.
Here's a sample of Harris's dance style which he demonstrated at a show in 2011:
Credit: Video by Brodie Marno Productions
In July of 2010, it was reported that Harris had earned a place at the Royal Ballet School. For the year long class, he traveled down to the capital to take instruction from the world's finest teachers every weekend. At that time, Jim Fletcher of the Royal Ballet School, said: "The standards of admission at any level at the Royal Ballet School are extremely high and reflect the international standing of the school as one of the great centres of excellence in the world alongside the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg and the Paris Opera Ballet. The fact that Harris is one of six selected out of 69 for a place reflects that he is talented and demonstrates his potential."
In this short video, Harris is seen practicing his ballet:
Credit: Video by EveningExpressVideos
It was first announced in the Fall of 2011 that Harris had won the role of Billy and was training at the Billy School to get ready to make his debut.
His debut would have made his grandpa and mother extremely proud that he's carrying on the family tradition of entertaining. His aunt and uncle definitely are. Said his aunt Debbie "We are very proud of him. He works very hard and has been dancing since an early age." And now London audiences get to see him dance as well.
Credit: Photo by BillyElliotUK
For more information on Harris Beattie visit:
The Billys at the 2012 Olivier Awards
Credit: Photo by Keith Millar
Tade Biesinger is from Bountiful, Utah, which is a suburb of Salt Lake City in the United States. He made his Broadway debut as Billy on May 17, 2011. And now he has become just the second American boy to play Billy full-time on both Broadway and the West End with his debut at the Victoria Palace Theatre on February 6, 2013. He is also the only American to first play Billy in America before taking the role to London where he is the 32nd boy to play Billy in the West End.
Tade's parents first enrolled him in dance classes after watching him mimicking the ice skaters in the 2006 Winter Olympics, sensing his natural athleticism and graceful movements. In an interview with the ABC-TV outlet in Salt Lake City, his dad, Clint, says Tade dances everywhere, "He just wouldn't stop almost. Around our house, in our kitchen, it's just what he does." Sound like a potential Billy Elliot?
He's been dancing now for about six years, beginning instruction at Dance Impressions in his hometown. Tade furthered his dance studies at Ballet West In Salt Lake City. While with Ballet West, he performed in the Nutcracker as Fritz and also in Madame Butterfly. And, as with most young dancers, Tade has participated in many dance competitions along the way, winning several of them. He is the winner of West Coast Dance Explosion “Mini National Male Elite Dancer” for 2009 and New York City Dance Alliance “National Mini Male Outstanding Dancer” for 2010.
Tade first came to the attention of the “Billy Elliot” team during one of those dance competitions and was asked to try out for the show. After auditioning last Fall, Tade was told he had been selected for the part in January 2011. He then moved to New York City with his mom and sister, where he trained in all the areas he had to know to be Billy in a three hour Broadway show. These skills involve dance (ballet, tap, modern), acting, vocal instruction, acro and working with a dialect coach to learn and perfect the tough Geordie accent all the actors in the show must use when they speak and sing. And, on top of all that, he had to do an average of three hours of academic tutoring five days a week to keep up his schooling.
As has been the case with so many of the new Billys, Tade found one of his biggest challenges was to build up the stamina needed to perform the role of Billy, having to be on stage constantly in an almost three hour show. Cardio exercises took up a lot of his training day. He has also said he often did all the dance steps in the show from beginning to end as a way of building his stamina.
In the days before his Broadway debut, though often long and tiring as he prepared to be in the show, he kept that ever present goal of performing in front of an audience as his motivation. "The thing that I'm most excited for is just performing with the whole company and doing what I love to do, and performing for all of those audiences," said Tade.
With his Broadway debut, he finally got that opportunity. And those filling the seats at Broadway's Imperial Theatre were the beneficiaries when he "tread the boards."
On November 15, 2011, Tade had the honor of playing Billy on the night the show celebrated the 3rd anniversary of the BETM production on Broadway. He was in the final cast of the Broadway show when it closed on January 8, 2012, having performed the role 43.75 times (includes one partial show and the final show on Broadway in which all four Billys shared the role).
And now, over a year later, the West End is blessed with the Tade's incredible talent.
Over the years, the London BETM creative staff and the cast have produced a series of "behind the scenes" videos so that interested fans of the show could see its inner workings. Soon after Tade joined the London cast, he was featured in the latest of these videos (released on 12-Mar-2013) in which he talks about what it's like to Be Billy and emcees a brief backstage tour:
In April of 2013 at the Olivier Awards (the West End equivalent to Broadway's Tonys), Tade and other members of the BETMUK cast were present to receive, on behalf of everyone involved in the London show, the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Audience Award. After several years of being nominated for this award, as voted on by the general public, BETM had finally won.
As part of the Olivier Awards festivities, during the afternoon of the day when the Awards will be presented that evening, various West End shows perform numbers from their productions at the Radio 2 stage in London's Covent Garden Piazza.
Credit: Photo by Keith Millar
On that day (April 28, 2013), Billy Elliot the Musical was one shows to perform. In this video, Tade is shown performing Electricity:
Credit: Video by BBCradio2
Credit: Photo by Monica Simoes
To learn more about Tade Biesinger visit:
Harrison is 12-years-old (D.O.B. 23-Apr-2000) and is from Radcliffe, Nottinghamshire, England, where he lives with his parents and little brother.
He says that despite the fact that he loves sports and is fairly good at playing them, at his school his teachers recognized his love of dance and encouraged him to take formal lessons. So, at the age of eight, Harrison enrolled in classes at the Rollo Academy of Performing Arts and Freedom Movement. There, he discovered his love of hip hop, joining the school's hip hop troupe. As part of that troupe, Harrison has won several competitions and awards, including "The Vale’s Got Talent", a talent contest organised by the Vale of Belvoir Rotary Club. The then 10-year-old performed an energetic hip-hop dance routine to Mike Posner’s Cooler Than Me for the win.
Harrison Accepts His Vale's Got Talent Award
When Harrison saw a poster announcing upcoming Billy Elliot the Musical auditions in his area, he decided he would "try my luck". Six months (and several call backs) after the initial audition, he was invited to Leeds to do some training with the BE team during the summer of 2011. Shortly thereafter, he was offered the role of Billy.
All that hip hop training has put him in good stead as Harrison is a "Street Billy". That is, when he performs his big Electricity number, his dancing reflects more modern and hip hop styles of dance rather than primarily the ballet movements that the "Ballet Billys" perform.
Here's a sample of Harrison's dance style from his award winning performance in the "Vale's Got Talent" competition:
Since being named to the role, Harrison has attended lessons at his home school in Nottingham, Toot Hill School, for only two weeks. He's moved into the "Billy House" in London with other members of the child cast and receives his academic lessons there. Like any young person when moving away from home for the first time, when Harrison first moved into the Billy House in London, it seemed strange and he was nervous about it. But he says it just took a few days and now he feels like he's "been here for months".
On 14-May-2012, it was announced in all the trade publications that Harrison was joining the BETM London cast as the 30th Billy to grace the Victoria Palace stage. He is the 64th boy to play the role in BETM world-wide. His debut took place that evening. By all accounts, it went very, very well. When asked his impression of how he did, Harrison said "I was given a standing ovation. I just loved it. I felt really proud". His mum, Sara, added "The dream ballet sequence was stunning. I’m still speechless — he smashed it.”
Harrison related that his stamina held up well (getting to that level of stamina is something all the Billys have to attain before performing in the arduous three hour show). In fact, in the glow of how well his debut had gone, he said he could have done it again.
Shortly after his debut, the show didn't waste any time showcasing its newest Billy. On June 20, 2012, Harrison represented BETM at the annual West End Live, at which he performed Electricity. This video of Harrison was taken at the Cardinal Place launch event for West End Live. Cardinal Place is in the Victoria section of London, just a short distance from where BETM is performed at the Victoria Palace Theatre (VPT). Unfortunately, the stage utilized at the event was a fraction of the size of the one at the VPT, which made it difficult for the audience there to appreciate the true breadth of his street dance/acro version of the song for which he's been getting raves. That said, he did a masterful job with it given the conditions:
Credit: Video by Sam4God
Since his debut, Harrison has been wowing audiences at the VPT on a regular basis and those London audiences are the fortunate beneficiaries of viewing the vast talents of this young man from Nottingham.
Credit: Photo by Alastair Muir
For more information on Harrison visit:
From North Boarhunt, Fareham (which is in Hampshire, England), 12-year-old Redmand Rance is the 31st Billy to star in BETM on the Victoria Palace Theatre (VPT) stage upon his debut on August 22, 2012 Redmand, who attends Boundary Oak Prep School in Fareham, is also the 67th Billy world-wide to appear in the show, now in its 8th year in London.
Like many of the boys who have played Billy, Redmand began dancing at a very young age - in his case at just four-years-old. His dance preparation has been at the Marie Clarke School of Dance where he has studied tap, modern, jazz and ballet. Also like many of the other Billys, Redmand has earned several awards for his dancing. Included in those awards was first place with his partner in Modern Duet in July 2011 at the All England Dance Finals.
Previous theatre credits include regional productions of Dance to the Rhythm and Oliver!, the latter in which he played the title role. Both shows were presented at Kings Theatre in Portsmouth. And, in February of 2012, just before his training for BETM began in earnest, Redmand appeared as the Young Cosmo in the West End production of Singin' in the Rain. It was about that time while performing in Singin' in the Rain that Redmand learned that he had been offered the title role in BETM for which he had previously auditioned.
Redman actually had prior experience as Billy Elliot when he was chosen for the West End production of BETM, having played the title role in the 2011 STP Musicals production, which was done in association with Billy Youth Theatre. Redmand was chosen to perform the role in Electricity at the Billy Youth Theatre Gala at the VPT in July, which included getting to perform in the Finale of the Gala with the four Billys playing the role professionally at the West End theatre at the time -- Scott McKenzie, Ryan Collinson, Josh Baker and Dean-Charles Chapman.
Redmand Performs in the Finale of the Billy Youth Theatre Gala
After he was living with the other young BETM cast members at the "Billy House" and in full training mode in preparation for his debut as Billy, Redman was invited to join in the festivities at a Gala on May 30, 2012 when the production celebrated 3000 shows and its 7th Birthday in the West End.
Redmand Joins the 5 London Billys at the May 30, 2012 Gala
Credit: Photo by Dan Wooller/wooller.com
Many of us never realize our life's dreams, or do so late in life. In his biography on StarNow.co.uk, written before his debut in Singin' in the Rain, Redmand said " My dream would be to play 'Billy Elliot'." With his debut as Billy, Redmand has fulfilled his dream at age 12 and London audiences are the beneficiaries of this tremendous young talent.
For more information about Redmand Rance, visit:
On May 13, 2013 at the Victoria Palace Theatre, 12-year-old Ali Rasul debuted as the 33rd London Billy. Ali is from Hartlepool in North East England, making him the first boy from that region to play the role in BETM. He is a student at High Tunstall College of Science in Hartlepool and is the 70th Billy internationally to play the role in the musical.
Dancing since the age of five, Ali competed with a hip hop "crew", aged 10-13, which won many awards nationally and internationally. In 2011, the group, called Lil Diamondz, competed and won on the popular CBBC British TV program Alicia Dixon’s Street Dance Stars. Here Lil Diamondz represented the UK at the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas in 2011. Watch for Ali at the end of the performance as he takes over the stage mic and entertains the audience:
To hone his skills in other forms of dance, Ali joined the Debbie Barrass Academy of Performing Arts in May of 2012, where he developed his ballet, tap and jazz andworked on vocals with Peter de Dee. To refine his ballet, he also took private ballet lessons in Newcastle twice a week.
After a BETM gruelling audition process in London and Newcastle, Ali was off to live in the Billy Elliot house in London where he completed two months of training before making his debut. About the audition process and his training Ali said, "I was so surprised and excited to have been cast and I just can't wait until my first performance on stage."
According to an article in his hometown newspaper, the Hartlepool Mail, Ali received three standing ovations during his debut performance. So, for Ali, the wait is over and now he will regularly BE Billy on stage at the VPT and London audiences will be the beneficiaries.
To learn more about Ali, visit:
BETM London Milestones
On March 31, 2010, a commemoration of the very first performance of Billy Elliot the Musical took place at the Victoria Palace Theatre. On that night, Stephen Daldry (Director), Lee Hall (Book and Lyrics), and Sir Elton John (Musical Score) each spoke briefly about the show before the performance began. After a superb show, during which Tom Holland played Billy, the highlight of the evening was a special Finale, which was led by the three orginating Billys -- James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower -- who were joined by 16 other past, present and future Billys, all of whom have played the role or will play it in the future.
Here's some video footage of the festivities at the Victoria Palace Theater celebrating Billy's 5th anniversay:
Credit: Video by WestEndTheatre
On 15-March-2012, the four London Billys attended the 2012 Olivier Awards Nominations announcement ceremony:
Credit: Photo by BillyElliotUK Twitter
On May 30, 2012, a date chosen for the availability of the many VIPs who would be in attendance, BETM London celebrated both the 7th Birthday of the show and also its upcoming (July 16 is the actual date) 3000th show. VIPs in attendance were Stephen Daldry (director), Lee Hall (writer), Sir Elton John (score), and three of the four original Billys (George Maguire, Liam Mower, Leon Cooke). A special finale/curtain call took place, which included all five of the current Billys and three Michaels. And, after the curtain came down, the cast and crew enjoyed a cake to celebrate the occasion. Here, Elton John and Lee Hall, along with the five current Billys (l-r Kaine Ward, Adam Vesperman, Harris Beattie, Harrison Dowzell and Ryan Collinison) get ready to enjoy some cake.
On June 23, 2012, the Billy Elliot cast, led by Kaine Ward as Billy, performed a montage of numbers from the show at the annual West End Live at Trafalgar Square in London:
Credit: Video by MrWestEndboy
The Victoria Palace Theatre: Home of Billy Elliot the Musical - London
In other articles in the Billy Elliot the Musical section of this site, see profiles of the Billys currently performing the role in the US National Tour production of the show at: Meet the Billys - US National Tour: Billy Elliot the Musical. There are also profiles of Billys of the recent past, who have left the show since September, 2009, in Meet the Billys - Profiles Archive: Billy Elliot the Musical.
Note: If you have found these profiles enjoyable to read and/or useful, your comments (below) would be very appreciated.
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