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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Elton 'moved' to join Billy Elliot musical
By Keily Oakes
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Sir Elton John and Stephen Daldry
Sir Elton joined director Stephen Daldry at the show's launch
Sir Elton John is providing the music for the stage version of British hit film Billy Elliot - and launched the show in London on Tuesday.

The star jumped on board after identifying with the story of the young boy striving to achieve his dreams against the wishes of his father.

While the film cost around 3m to produce, the musical will cost more than double that - much of which is being invested in finding the right young boys to take the role of Billy, played in the movie by Jamie Bell.

While Sir Elton says the finishing touches have still to be made to the songs, he performed three of the show's numbers to assembled media to launch the show.

Doing this musical has been one of my true passions
Sir Elton John
Stephen Daldry is back directing, having made a success of the film, while its creator Lee Hall is also behind it, teaming up with Sir Elton to write the lyrics.

The film 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 miner's strike of 1984.

Daldry himself experienced the atmosphere of the strike after becoming involved in community theatre in a pit town.

The moving yet uplifting film captured the hearts of cinema-goers around the world, going on to make more than 100m at box offices.

Even as the film received its first screening at the Cannes Film Festival the idea of turning it into a musical was being formed.

Among the influential people at that screening were Sir Elton and partner David Furnish.

Sir Elton says: "Doing this musical has been one of my true passions.

"When I saw the film, I was so moved. I could relate to it from a personal point of view. I was sobbing by the end of it and had to be carted out.

Hit a nerve

He said he saw comparisons between his upbringing and that of the young character, and felt inspired to get involved with putting it on stage.

Sir Elton John
Sir Elton said he could identify with the story
"My relationship with my father was similar to the one Billy has with his father. I was always trying to prove something to him. When Billy's father comes to see his son in Swan Lake at the end of the film, that hit a nerve with me.

"That was one of the things that drew me to the whole project.

"I also had a difficult relationship with my father when I was growing up, but sorted it out in the end. Billy's story reminded me of my own life."

And while Billy Elliot landed his dream of entering the Royal Ballet School, Sir Elton was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music at the age of 11.

And Sir Elton is no stranger to writing for musicals, having composed for The Lion King and Aida, both with Sir Tim Rice.

Challenge

Stephen Daldry, who got an Oscar nomination for Billy Elliot, his first film, has spent a long time seeking young performers for the show, with more than 3,000 boys already auditioning.

This task has been made more difficult because the law regarding child actors means three will be cast and they will be changed every six months.

Daldry, who admits he was dubious about turning the film into a musical, said finding the right boys to play Billy had been a challenge because it required extraordinary dancing, acting and singing abilities, and the actor will be rarely off the stage during the whole performance.

"No child will have faced the demands this child will face," he said.

As a result, a talent school, dubbed the Billy Elliot School, in Leeds has been set up to train boys who may end up in the role.

The final cast has yet to be announced, but the show will open in November in Newcastle, before moving to London's Victoria Palace Theatre in March 2005.


SEE ALSO:
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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