Quite a while ago I reported that a publication had it on rumor that on of the boys who play “Billy” in Billy Elliot would be leaving the cast, and I tried to figure out who that might be. However, it’s taken a very long time for one of them to actually report that he will take his last curtain call. (So, I guess that magazine didn’t have their information quite right…which was actually pointed out to me by a helpful blog reader.)
On August 28, however, Playbill.com reported that Tony Award winner Kiril Kulish, one of the three young boys who created the title role in Billy Elliot the Musical here in the U.S., will play his final performance at the Imperial Theatre Oct. 3 at 8 PM. Alex Ko will then joins the cast of rotating Billys the week of Oct. 5.
This will be Alex Ko’s Broadway debut. I was amazed to learn, however, that he was the youngest student admitted to the University of Iowa Dance Department at age 12 and has been guided by ballet masters Eloy Barragán and George de la Peña. (Julian had de la Peña as an acting teacher at American Ballet Theatre this summer, and he appears in the first video in my last post about Patrick Swazye.)
We loved Kiril’s performance, although we were sorry not to see David Alvarez. That said, his performance was flawless all the way around. I actually spoke to him briefly after the show and asked him about an interview. He directed me to the PR department, like a good little boy. Maybe now I can actually get him to talk to me! (I did not pursue the PR department at the time; I figured it would be too difficult. It might be less difficult now.)
My son, Julian, danced a few times this summer at American Ballet Theatre with David, another “Billy,” who claimed he was already too tall for the roll. However, he seems to still be taking the stage…at least for the time being. So, I wonder what the criteria are for leaving the show, and who decides — the boys or the director?
Tony-nominee David Bologna, who plays “Michael, will soon leave the cast as well, playing his final performance Sept. 27. Keean Johnson, previously an understudy in the role, will join the rotation in the role of Michael with Trevor Braun. We saw both David and Trevor, who were both awesome. Really, they were great.
I’m glad Julian and I saw the show twice while we were in New York with the original cast, although we only saw Kirul Kulish and the understudy, Tommy Batchelor, in the role of “Billy.” We would have loved to see Alvarez, since Julian had met him and taken class with him. We also wouldn’t have minded seeing Trent Kowalik. We wondered if Tommy had actually moved up from being an understudy; he’s no longer listed as an understudy. He looked like more of a tapper than a ballet dancer to us.
Haydn Gwynne, who originated the role of Mrs. Wilkinson in the U.K. and Broadway productions of Billy Elliot, is also ending her New York run Oct. 4. She was superb! Gwynne will be followed by Canadian stage actress Kate Hennig, who begins performances on Broadway Oct. 6.
Tommy Batchelor went into the regular rotation as a Billy back in March, and is no longer an understudy. Tommy, along with Giuseppe Bausilio from Switzerland, and Cesar Corrales, from Canada, will open the Chicago run of the show this coming March before the show embarks on a national tour.
As to Kiril being a tapper, he had never done any tap at all before being chosen to play Billy, and had to learn it from scratch, as did David Alvarez.
According to an article by Michael Reidel in the NY Post, Kiril has had full scholarship offers from the Royal Ballet School and the School of the Paris Ballet when he finishes his run. Also according to the same article, he has been offered a slot on a national tour of “The Kings of Dance.” I am really looking forward to seeing a great career for Kiril in the future.
You can find a lot of information about all the NY Billys, plus the London ones as well, at http://www.billyelliottheforum.me.uk.
Two boys from my son’s school (Canada’s National Ballet School) have landed the role of Billy for the upcoming season. Cesar Corrales, in the touring production (as mentioned above), and another boy who I probably shouldn’t name here, as I don’t think his name has been formally announced in the press yet. This other boy, who is 14, will appear on Broadway beginning sometime during the fall/winter. So exciting!
Pre-Billy, Kiril Kulish was an accomplished young ballet dancer. As I recall, he won a title at the Youth America Grand Prix at a very young age. I believe he’d also been competitive in ballroom dancing, and is quite good on the piano. Certainly a talented young man to keep an eye on!
Glad to read about his scholarship offers!
I actually went in and corrected my entry. I meant to say that Tommy looked more like a tapper to us. I didn’t mean Kiril…Don’t know where my head was when I was writing that post!
I was wondering! 🙂 Tommy is an excellent tapper, but he is also an excellent all- around dancer. He was also spotted through YAGP.
In response to your statement, “So, I wonder what the criteria are for leaving the show, and who decides — the boys or the director?” the answer is neither. Each performer in a Broadway show, including the boys who play Billy, have a contract. These boys had what is called a “white contract” because they held a principle role. Unlike pink contracts, white contracts have an expiration date. (White contracts are for leads, and Pink contracts are for the ensemble/chorus) Before the expiration date of one’s white contract, the producers decide if they are going to extend the performer’s contract or not-the performer (the boy(s) in this case) and the director have no say in whether their contract is extended or not. In Kiril’s case, I am sure it was not difficult for the producers to decide if they should renew his contract. He was getting much to old for the part and too tall (in comparison to the workshops and try-outs and when he first went through “Billy Camp.”) I am sure Kiril was sad to leave, but it was time. Frankly, I believe that some of the scenes were a bit inappropriate for a person his size/age to play, so it was right that they finally brought in a replacement. Hope this answers your question.
Thanks for the clarification. It’s helpful not only for me but for my readers to understand how things work!
Billy Lola says
It seems awfully expensive and time consuming to deal with all these pre-pubescent Billies. I wonder if the producers/directors seriously considered casting short , slight older boys who can dance (Mickey Rooney types) instead of these young boys (extremely talented for sure) who require huge amounts of preparation and don’t last all that long.