I read an article in the latest issue of Mvmnt Magazine about the current cast of Billy Elliot, the Musical. (The article I wrote on Criss Angel’s Believe, which Wade Robson choreographed, is on the cover of this issue.) It seems that one, as yet unnamed “Billy” is due to get fired already, and the show only opened on November 13! It seems time does not lie on the side of these child actors/dancers. As soon as puberty hits, they are out!
I would speculate that Kiril Kulish, aged 14, has gotten (or will get) the ax. One of the other boys also is 14, but Kiril is the only one who looks 14. The other two look much younger.
If you recall, my son auditioned for this Broadway musical almost two years ago now, making it through four auditions to the last one which was supposed to last 30 minutes but which lasted almost 2 hours instead. We were sure at the time he would be considered for the role.
When he didn’t get the part, we discovered that the casting directors had to produce time lines on all the top candidates, predicting when they might hit puberty. The “Billys” can’t have cracking voices or peach fuzz on their lips while on stage. And they surely didn’t want to put a ton of money into these boys only to discover they no longer looked or sounded like boys a month or two – or even six months – into the show. (Unfortunately, it seems they miscalculated with at least one boy…) They made the right decision with my son, Julian. Had he been there on opening night, his voice would have sounded much different than it did when he auditioned on that February day in 2006 and the audience might have detected a slight mustache (of which he’s quite proud) if the make up crew didn’t do a good job of covering it up. Whether or not that’s why they didn’t hire him as a “Billy” we’ll never know. He didn’t have any voice training, although the voice teacher we hired just before and just after the Be Billy audition said he had singing talent. And, the audition description said they were looking for raw talent. In fact, when it came to the dancing, the boys were told to bring tap shoes “if they had them.” So, the directors were willing to train these boys.
Anyway, this article indicates that young male (or female) dances and actors must live with the fact that their time in any show is limited by their changing bodies. While they perform, other actors and actresses are being trained to take their places…thus the reason for the Billy Elliot Academy. Adult actors don’t need to worry about this; no other actors waiting in the wings to jump into their role, unless of course they don’t do a good job.
That’s the oh-so-up-uplifting news for today. Sorry I couldn’t be more positive…A reality check is always a good thing, though, right?
On that note, let me also mention that puberty does effect dancers in some other ways. As they grow, their muscles can’t keep up with their bones and they become more prone to sprains and breaks and all sorts of injuries. They become clumsier. They may not be able to do things they could before, or the same actions may feel awkward all of a sudden, because their center of gravity has changed. They may literally not know where their feet are at any given moment. They may not be as flexible, or they may suddenly be able to “get” their splits. They may have aches and pains for no reason. Ah, the trials and tribulations of being a growing child and a dancer to boot.
Let me wish you all a very Happy second night of Chanukah and a week of light and miracles if you celebrate this Jewish holiday. And for the rest of you, may you have a very merry Christmas (in case I don’t write before the 24th or 25th–my schedule has been crazy with driving Julian to tutoring and community service opportunities and trying mostly unsuccessfully to work)! Don’t forget to put a My Brother Can Dance T-shirt in your dancin’ boy’s stocking…or to purchase one before the prices go up in January!