Perse Players production of Billy Elliot the Musical proves to be a hot ticket
28 Mar 2018
Talented Perse actors and musicians entertained audiences with four sell-out shows of Billy Elliot the Musical in the brand new Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre.
It was the biggest production ever staged by the Perse Players, featuring 38 cast members and nine band members, backed up by a 16-strong technical crew.
Based on the film and set in County Durham, Billy Elliot the Musical revolves around the title character who swaps boxing gloves for ballet shoes against a backdrop of family and community problems caused by the miners’ strike of 1984/85.
Perse Theatre Director in Residence Matt Hawksworth directed and choreographed the show, working closely with Assistant Director of Music Ben Wingfield, who was conductor and musical director, to help bring the production to fruition.
Mr Hawksworth said: “It’s a piece that’s rarely performed by schools and we were very fortunate to be granted the licence to perform it as it’s only recently been in the West End and on a UK tour. It was a real privilege to be able to do this.
“We felt very strongly that it was a story which was worth telling, not just for Billy’s journey but for the wider resonance that it had for a community devastated by the miners’ strike.”
Mr Wingfield added: “It was a huge undertaking by the cast to learn a script, choreography, a Geordie accent, master puppetry and negotiate a brand new space in just 10 weeks. They were all superb. It was a monumental team effort. We’d also like to thank all members of staff who have given their time and ideas to help us.”
The part of Billy was taken by two pupils, Jonathan Knight (Year 7) and Ben Lewis (Year 9), who alternated the role over the four performances.
Mr Hawksworth said: “We were fortunate that we had not one, but two Billies who were more than capable of taking a really challenging role. They dedicated a vast amount of lunch and break times, as well as after school, to practising the music and the choreography.
“We couldn’t have wished for two better boys to take on the challenge. They supported each other beautifully and made the characters their own.”
Both Mr Hawksworth and Mr Wingfield were pleased with the feedback from those who had watched the show.
Mr Hawksworth added: “It was very special. Hopefully we did Sir Peter Hall proud in what was the first public performance production in the new space.
“It’s really wonderful to have this new home for art, music and drama. We’re really excited about the possibilities for the future.”