We caught up with Birmingham’s Lewis Smallman, aka Billy Elliot, ahead of the show’s run at the Hippodrome
If you’ve seen Billy Elliot the Musical you’ll understand how intense the role of the young Billy is. If you haven’t where have you been? On stage almost throughout the entire production, the role of Billy requires incredible stamina and energy. It’s no mean feat. There are four talented ‘Billys’ touring currently who rotate in the role and one of them is Brum’s very own Lewis Smallman who’s thrilled to be ‘coming home for a bit’.
Dancing since the age of six at Arabesque Dance School in Perry Barr, Lewis had his first stint on the Hippodrome stage in Swan Lake and is excited to be back. Now aged 13, it took a while to get the part of Billy with a lengthy audition process – roughly two years – and over 100 boys competing for the part.
HOME AND AWAY
Once whittled down to just 11, the young actors attended a summer school which put them through their paces further before the company made a final decision. Lewis took it all in his stride, mind you. He said he was ‘a little bit nervous’. His mum on the other hand, he says, cried when he got a place on the summer school.
Having been chosen as one of the four Billys, things got more intense living away from home. He explains why it’s all worth it: “I found it a bit hard settling in. I’d never been away from home before, but being on stage is fun and cool. It’s what I want to do.” Combining rehearsing and performing with schoolwork is important to the company. It’s a well-thought out and well-practised regime at the company with two tutors on hand for schooling in the morning and rehearsals in the afternoon.
There are seven full-time chaperones touring to look after the cast and to manage logistics of getting people in the right place at the right time. Head chaperone Simon Potter, who we suspect is the lynchpin in the whole operation, explained: “Billy carries the whole show. It’s mentally tough and requires immense stamina. All of the boys are at the top of their game.” He adds: “It can be hard for parents and siblings. Life carries on as normal.” I wondered how hard it is for the Billys to step back in to normal life if indeed they do. Simon added: “If you stop it’s hard to pick it back up at the same level. It’s better to stay at the top of your game. Lewis has lots of options, professional theatre school perhaps.”
Many of the Billys have gone on to do great things. Starring in Matthew Bourne productions for example and not forgetting Tom Holland who played Spiderman on the big screen. Lewis isn’t sure what he’ll do next, but he says: “I’d like to do some TV although Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be good too.”
With such a long lead time from auditioning to performing some of the Billys have naturally outgrown the part and look too old, but Lewis has been lucky enough to perform the whole tour of more than 100 shows which will end in July. We’ll be watching Lewis’s career with interest.
FORMER BILLYS DOING GREAT THINGS:
- Tom Holland has starred in Marvel’s Spiderman as well as The Impossible
- Dean-Charles Chapman played Tommen Baratheon in Game of Thrones
- Liam Mower has starred in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Car Men