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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Billy Elliot stage stars unveiled
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Left to right: Liam Mower, George Maguire and James Lomas
Liam, George and James (l-r) will take turns to play Billy
The three boys who will play Billy Elliot in the musical version of the hit film have been unveiled.

James Lomas, 14, George Maguire, 13, and 12-year-old Liam Mower were picked from more than 3,000 hopefuls.

They will take turns to play the lead role in the Stephen Daldry-directed musical, whose score has been composed by Sir Elton John.

Billy Elliot - The Musical opens at the Victoria Palace Theatre, in London, in May 2005.

James, George and Liam were revealed as the stars of the show at a press conference in London on Tuesday.

Wearing white t-shirts emblazoned with the word "Billy" on front, the three boys were introduced on stage by Daldry.

All of us were aware we were looking for three very exceptional boys
Stephen Daldry

Daldry also directed the 2000 film, starring Bafta winner Jamie Bell.

It tells the story of young Billy, who shows an aptitude for dance despite resistance from his tough, working class father, and is set against the harsh backdrop of the miners' strike of 1984.

Daldry said they knew finding the right boys would be like "looking for a needle in a haystack".

"All of us were aware we were looking for three very exceptional boys," he said.

"Not only did they have to sing and dance and do gymnastics, but they had to be able to hold the whole show themselves.

"They also had to be from the north of England - preferably the north-east of England - or have the ability to do the accent."

Billy Elliot
Jamie Bell won a Bafta for his performance as Billy Elliot

Daldry said they held "exhaustive and exhausting" auditions around the country, with the whole process taking seven months from start to finish.

The three 'Billys' were whittled down from a final group of eight after weekend training sessions at the special Billy Elliot School in Leeds, as well as further evening classes nearer their homes.

Daldry added: "The kids have started a long journey... they are very, very determined boys as well as being very talented."

He said each boy would have their own show tailor-made to suit their individual strengths.

"Each show is about the individual boy. They each have their own talents, therefore the show has to be individual to them."

'Amazing'

James, 14, from Sheffield, said landing the part as Billy was "a dream".

A former gymnastics champion in South Yorkshire, James only started dancing when he was 13 years old - and it was his dance teacher who spotted the advertisement for the auditions.

He said: "It's been a dream of mine for ages, I've always wanted to be in a [West End] show and now I am here.

"I've had to give up a lot, but I'm not sure that I'll miss it because I really want to do what I'm doing now."

George, from Stanford-le-Hope, in Essex, said: "I feel amazing and just over the moon. I just didn't think I would get this far.

"When I saw the film I thought, 'I want to do that', but I never thought I would."

Stage adaptation

Hull-born Liam, who has recently joined the Royal Ballet School with a scholarship, said he was "really happy" to have been chosen.

His mum, Jo, said: "It's early days but he loves it there. He's only 12 and it's a bit of an adventure for him."

Asked how their friends had taken the news of their stage role, all the boys said they had received lots of support, with teasing at a minimum.

"Well you do get some idiots," admitted George.

"That's life", quipped James.

Billy Elliot has been adapted for stage by Daldry and Lee Hall, who wrote the film.

The idea of turning the film into a musical was first raised by Sir Elton John after he watched the first screening at the Cannes Film Festival, before it was released.

Both Daldry and Hall said Sir Elton had been "fantastic" to work with.




SEE ALSO:
Elton 'moved' to join Billy Elliot musical
22 Jun 04  |  Entertainment
Brit film tops TV movie ratings
04 Jun 04  |  Entertainment
Hunt for Billy Elliot stage stars
06 Feb 04  |  Entertainment
Jamie's dance to fame
06 Feb 01  |  Entertainment
Stephen Daldry's hour arrives
31 Dec 03  |  Entertainment


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