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Monday, 27 March 2017

Behind The Scenes of Billy Elliot UK Tour, Birmingham Hippodrome.


I have been memorised by the musical Billy Elliot recently, having listened to the soundtrack on repeat as well as watching the live performance film as well as the original as well as the 2000 film. It's currently playing at Birmingham Hippodrome until April 29 and with the opportunity to get a sneak peak backside to this production as well as speaking to those behind the production and see it again, I couldn't say no.

With eight truck fulls of kit and a technical crew of 50-plus people to bring the set of Billy Elliot to life as well as transport it from venue to venue during it's tour there's clearly a lot of work that goes into making it a success. The tour itself features a 55-strong cast including 28 children who come along with chaperones, teachers and parents in tow. The commitment by this young people is admirable, taking on the intense schedule of performing in a smash hit musical as well as studying and fitting in dance lessons. The Billy Elliot kids travel with the entire show as it moves around the country. This therefore requires a lot of extra hands on board, including seven full-time chaperones, plus extra travel chaperones, two full-time teachers, as well as specialist teachers at every venue or available on Skype to develop the kid's movement repertoire


It was so much fun walking amongst the many props and scenery used to bring a production alive, with even a enlarged and rather scary Margaret Thatcher hanging overhead us. Taking in all the information about how they move from each scene, how they adapt their backstage space dependent on the venue's space itself and understanding the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.

The dressing room space is well organised into the children, male and female cast with many various costumes hanging up in their order with shoes of all different kinds, from ballet shoes to steel toe shoes. The men themselves have 3 pairs of miner boots each, one pair has built in taps and one parit are steel toe tapped so they can the pit gates safely within the show. We could see taped to the wall numerous schedules of each costume a performer was going to change into during the show and everything they'd need to complete their character. 

With so many costumes to organise including 31 tutus, the wardrobe team spend around 7 hours a day, including 3 hours during the show doing laundry to get it all washed and ironed. Billy himself wears 7 pairs of shoes in the show, trainers, 3 pairs of tap shoes, ballet slippers, bedroom slippers and tap covers.





We were shown around the backstage by Scott Garnham who plays Billy's brother Tony as well as Emma who works for the touring company. They spoke to us about the importance of their dressers who are on hand to help the cast move through the various scenes. They also guided us through how the scenery was moved during the show, with some hidden secrets that I won't let slip to ruin the magic.

We also got the opportunity to sit in the auditorium and chat with the Resident Choreographer Jeroen Luiten who is helping ensure the magic and slickness of the show is kept throughout the tour. Hearing him talk about the intense schedule for the young people of the show as well as how the show was received over in Holland compared to the UK was interesting.  It must have been really intriguing to talk about how a bit part of UK's history is being presented in this musical. Whilst we spoke to Jeroen we were able to see the cast themselves warm up for the evening's performance.













Being able to sit in the audience after this tour and soak in the atmosphere and witness all of the hard work on the stage was really exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the performance again, with our Billy Elliot, Haydn May and Michael played by Samuel Torpey stole the entire performance with Expressing Yourself.

There's still time to watch Billy Elliot at the Birmingham Hippodrome, it's playing until Sat 29 April and is well worth a visit. I'm even deciding on a final third visit before it departs from Birmingham!

thanks for reading,

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