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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 15:20 GMT
US actor plays stage Billy Elliot
New Billy Elliot cast members
The boys will take it in turns to play the role of Billy Elliot
A young US actor is among an international cast of boys lined up to play Billy Elliot in the West End.

Colin Bates, 15, from Pennsylvania, and six other actors will all star in the musical as the Tyneside boy who wins a place at the Royal Ballet.

Dean McCarthy, 14, from Dublin, will also join the show, which is nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards.

The musical, which opened last May with a score composed by Sir Elton John, is based on the film starring Jamie Bell.

Bates, whose father is from the UK, said he had found the move to London "a bit scary" but understood the story of the boy chasing his dreams in a mining town, despite coming from the US.

'Natural charisma'

Bates, who plays the son of Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie in forthcoming film The Good Shepherd, said: "There are boys that dance and boys that do football or American football and basketball.

Julie Walters and Jamie Bell
Julie Walters appeared alongside Jamie Bell in the film in 2000

"It's a big difference, so you can relate to the story a little bit."

Matthew Koon, 12, from Salford, Lancs, whose parents are both from Hong Kong, will be the first of the new actors to play the lead, starting on 1 March.

Director Stephen Daldry said the show was getting a multi-racial mix of leads because it did not matter "what they look like".

"It's whether they have a talent, a natural ability in place, or charisma," he said.

The three original actors to play the stage role, Liam Mower, James Lomas and George Maguire, are jointly nominated for best actor in a musical at the Laurence Olivier Awards on Sunday.

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