2nd gen­er­a­tion ‘Billy El­liot’ dances into Seoul

The Korea Times - - CULTURE - By Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@ktimes.com

“Billy El­liot” is about a boy from a min­ing com­mu­nity in North East Eng­land who dreams of be­com­ing a bal­let dancer. A the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion of this mod­ern-day fairy­tale res­onated with over 11 mil­lion the­ater­go­ers around the globe since it pre­miered in Lon­don’s West End in 2005.

The show makes a tri­umphant come­back af­ter seven years and will raise its cur­tain at D-Cube Arts Cen­ter in south­ern Seoul with pre­views start­ing Nov. 28. This time, the mu­si­cal has a dif­fer­ent pro­duc­tion com­pany, Seensee Com­pany.

Louise With­ers, in­ter­na­tional ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of “Billy El­liot,” wel­comed Korea’s sec­ond pro­duc­tion of the mu­si­cal.

“Our mis­sion to bring Billy back to Korea met Seensee’s de­sire to bring this beau­ti­ful mu­si­cal back. We couldn’t be hap­pier to be here and the stan­dard of tal­ent in Korea is ab­so­lutely world-class,” With­ers said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Seoul Tues­day.

The movie-turned-mu­si­cal pre­miered in Korea in 2010 to rave re­sponses, and the five boys who played the tit­u­lar role jointly won the Rookie of the Year at the Korea Mu­si­cal Awards. De­spite en­thu­si­as­tic fan­dom here, the mu­si­cal went into a long seven-year hia­tus.

Korean pro­ducer Park Myung-sung said he is ex­cited to stage “Billy” in Korea once again.

“Billy El­liot has ev­ery­thing — it has a boy’s pas­sion who dreams of be­com­ing a bal­let dancer, love for fam­ily and sol­i­dar­ity in a com­mu­nity. I be­lieve Billy will res­onate with Korean au­di­ences well,” Park said.

Si­mon Pol­lard, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of “Billy El­liot” in Korea, said he is glad to be part of stag­ing the show in Seoul.

“Billy El­liot tells a story of a boy who wants to be a dancer in a tur­bu­lent time in Bri­tish his­tory, set in the 1984 coal min­ers’ strike. I am happy to work with ac­tors of this cal­iber in Korea,” Pol­lard said.

The five tal­ented young ac­tors who will play the lead role are Chun Woo-jin, Kim Hyun-jun, Sung Ji-hwan, Sim Hyun-seo and Eric Tay­lor. The boys started au­di­tion­ing about a year and a half ago and went through hard train­ing in­clud­ing vo­cal, bal­let, tap dance, ac­ro­bat­ics and street dance to be­come the glis­ten­ing mir­a­cle in a coal val­ley.

“It was my first-ever au­di­tion for a mu­si­cal and I was ex­cited and ner­vous at the same time,” Sim said. “As I be­came fa­mil­iar with the other boys, the train­ing got more in­ter­est­ing. We prac­ticed about six hours a day, learn­ing jazz dance, ac­ro­bat­ics, tap dance, vo­cal, street dance and many more.”

Kim said, “I was only able to dance street style be­fore the au­di­tion, so bal­let class was the most chal­leng­ing for me.”

Damian Jackson, the mu­si­cal’s as­so­ciate chore­og­ra­pher who au­di­tioned and trained them, said, “The au­di­tion process is de­mand­ing for chil­dren. But they did so per­fectly af­ter only a few hours of re­hearsal for this spe­cific event. I am so proud of the five boys. Imag­ine how won­der­ful the boys will be when the show opens in the near fu­ture.”

Train­ing for “Billy El­liot” is not just chal­leng­ing for the boys but for the adult cast as well.

Choi Jung-won, who plays Billy’s bal­let in­struc­tor Mrs. Wilkin­son, said she cried while prac­tic­ing tap danc­ing and skip­ping rope at the same time.

“I can tap dance and I can jump rope. But I couldn’t skip rope while tap danc­ing. It was so frus­trat­ing,” Choi said. “But sud­denly, the mo­ment came and I was able to skip rope and tap dance to­gether!”

Choi is an es­tab­lished ac­tress in Korea, known for her por­trayal of Velma in “Chicago” and Donna in “Mamma Mia!”

“I first saw Billy in Lon­don in 2005 and I cried a lot. Play­ing Mrs. Wilkin­son is a dream-come-true for me as well,” Choi said.

Choi al­ter­nates Mrs. Wilk­i­son with Kim Young-joo. Vet­eran ac­tors Kim Ghab-soo and Choi Myung-kyung play Billy’s dad, while Park Jung-ja and Hong Yun-hee play his grand­mother.

The Korean pro­duc­tion of “Billy El­liot” runs from Nov. 28 to May 7, 2018. Tick­ets cost 60,000 to 140,000 won. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit iseensee.com or call 02-577-1987.

Cour­tesy of Seensee Com­pany

Five boys play­ing the role of Billy in the upcoming mu­si­cal “Billy El­liot” show­case “Elec­tric­ity” dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at a ho­tel in Seoul, Tues­day. From left are Eric Tay­lor, Sung Ji-hwan, Chun Woo-jin, Sim Hyun-seo and Kim Hyun-jun.

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