Will the real Billy Elliot please step forward….

Billys past and present

Who can believe ten years have passed since since Billy Elliot fouettéd his way onto the stage of the Victoria Palace Theatre? Back in 2005, three incredible young actors created the stage role of Billy and wey aye man, they’ve grown up. In writing this post, I seem to have unearthed a wiki-leak…the curious case of the two George Maguires. But more of that later…

Billy's original cast grew up fast!
Billy’s original cast grew up fast – James, George (centre) & Liam reunited.

The original intention was to open the show in Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre, but financial pressures on both the venue and from the show’s ballooning budget made that impossible: The production cost a staggering £5.5million – more than the entire budget of the original film. The show premiered in London’s Victoria Palace Theatre on 11 May 2005, following previews from 31 March 2005 and the show’s title role was shared by three unknown teenagers – Liam Mower, James Lomas and George Maguire. Under incredible pressure and with the intense heat of the show’s media glare upon them, it would have been all too easy for show’s young stars to burn bright, burn up and then burn out. Yet an expert team and a specialist training program at the Billy Elliot School meant that the greatest care was taken with their young protégés.

The Good, The Glad and the Talented: London's first three Billys
James, George and Liam: London’s first three Billys

As Billy Elliot turns 10, it’s a joy to see the original Billys all grown up and taking such diverse paths – from dancer to musician to marathon runner. And there’s even a mystery – two George Maguires and both with an Olivier! But let’s deal with one Billy at a time…

James Jacob Lomas

1 March 1990 (Pisces)
From: Sheffield

Easy on the ear....and on the eye: Billy Elliot aka James Lomas
Easy on the ear….and on the eye: Billy Elliot aka James Lomas

It is over nine years since James’s final performance on 7 January 2006 when he was still just 15. James started dancing with the Sharon Berry School of Theatre Dance in Sheffield aged 12, after his Drama teacher suggested he pursue dancing in order to be able to perform on a West End stage – a story not unlike that of Billy himself.

James Lomas has his own Mrs Wilkinson in Sharon Berry
James Lomas has his own Mrs Wilkinson in Sharon Berry

Lomas earned a place at the London dance and drama school “Millennium” where he studied from September 2006 onwards.

After leaving drama school James appeared in Dirty Dancing as Swing/Understudy Jordan and Toured with Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dream coat as understudy Joseph.

Lomas continued to add to his musical theatre CV, playing Espresso in Starlight Express (Bochum, Germany) but in recent years has really focused on music: James is now a working musician – currently a drummer/vocalist in the Band Gypsy Queens based in France.

The Gypsy Queens: Count Prince Harry among their famous fans
The Gypsy Queens: Count Prince Harry among their famous fans

Fans of James Lomas might like to know that they can follow Sheffield’s first Billy Elliot on Twitter https://twitter.com/jameslomas20 . It might be more appropriate to describe James as Hunky Elliot judging by this twitter post.

James Lomas has somewhat shaken off his child star image....along with most of his clothes
James Lomas has somewhat shaken off his child star image….along with most of his clothes


Liam Mower

Born: 30 May 1992 (Gemini)
From: Kingston upon Hull

Liam Mower, youngest of the original Billys
Liam Mower, youngest of the original Billys

Significantly younger than either James Lomas or George Maguire, Liam Mower was still only 12 years old on the opening night of Billy Elliot – and, just to make those of us who were already grown up in 2005 feel really old, is still only 22.

Liam joined the Royal Ballet School as a boarding pupil whilst auditioning for Billy Elliot – just one step on his path in professional dance. After leaving the show, Liam went on to study at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in Twickenham.

Liam Mower (right) collected the Olivier Award shared between the three actors - a first at the time
Liam Mower (right) collected his Olivier Award shared between three young actors – a first at the time

Mower continued in Billy Elliot until 30 September 2006 making him not only the youngest of the three original Billys, but also the last to perform. It may be just as well – in 2012, Liam spoke about his time on Billy Elliot in TV’s “The Story of Musicals”. Part of the documentary featured an interview with lyricist Lee Hall in which he revealed that during the show’s first run through, Mower vomited at the side of the stage after performing Angry Dance. Mower hinted that maybe he didn’t make it that far and “was just in mid-pirouette…just threw up everywhere…literally projectile vomited.”

Liam Mower flying high as Cupid
Liam Mower flying high as Cupid for Matthew Bourne

In November 2011, it was announced that Mower would be returning to the stage in Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker and from January 2014, he starred in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake as the Prince. On 28 September 2014, Liam returned with James and George for ‘Billy Elliot the Musical Live!’, a one-off live screening to many countries, where, poetically, (hats off to the casting team) he played the role of Older Billy in the duet.

One Billy who can definitely cut it as a dancer...
One Billy who can definitely cut it as a dancer…

Mower has since starred in Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures production of ‘Edward Scissorhands‘ at Sadler’s Wells in London, sharing the lead role with Dominic North.

So, that’s two thirds of the original team…but what of the third?

George Maguire

December 11, 1990 (er…Sagittarius if you’re interested)
From: Stanford-le-Hope, Essex

George Maguire performed the role of Billy for opening night, 12 May 2005, and was the first of the three original Billys to leave the show, on 17 December the same year.

You won't be seeing this Billy Elliot in Sunny Afternoon...
George Maguire: You won’t be seeing this Billy Elliot in Sunny Afternoon…

Don’t rely on wikipedia, which will tell you he’s now playing Dave Davis in Sunny Afternoon. He isn’t…well, at least not the same George Maguire! The confusion arises because although Equity rules don’t allow two actors to use the same name, Spotlight will allow a child actor to be registered with the same name as an adult, and therein chaos ensues…if you’re interested, there’s a fuller explanation here:

https://www.thestage.co.uk/opinion/2014/equity-spotlights-name-rules-create-crisis-identity/

Our George Maguire has most recently been running the London Marathon in aid of St Luke’s Hospice in Essex.

Marathon Man: 26 miles of fundraising - George Maguire
Marathon Man: 26 miles and counting…

One thing that both George Maguires DO have in common is that both have an Olivier Award on the shelf! Billy Elliot the Musical won four Laurence Olivier Awards: Best New Musical, Best Actor (awarded jointly to James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower), Best Sound design and Best Choreographer. It also won the Evening Standard Award as well as the Critics Circle Award and the Theatregoers Choice Award, all for Best Musical. In 2013, the show also won an additional Olivier Award, the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award.

And what of the future? Well, a talented crop of young actors, dancers, musicicans and future marathon runners are now electrifying those lucky enough to have begged, bought or stolen a ticket to what the Daily Telegraph’s Critic Charles Spencer called “the greatest British musical I have ever seen”. With fate, hard work and just a little luck who knows where Brodie Donougher, Thomas Hazelby, Ollie Jochim and Bradley Perret will be in ten years’ time? If they are anything like the first three Billys, we think their future looks “canny”.

Billy now and forever [photograph: Craig Sugden]
Billy now and forever [photograph: Craig Sugden]
http://billyelliotthemusical.com/

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