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Anchorage dance students play English dance students for 'Billy Elliot’

  • Author: Hope Miller
  • Updated: February 10, 2017
  • Published February 9, 2017

Seasoned performers from Outside and kids from Alaska will share the stage next week for the Anchorage debut of the Broadway hit "Billy Elliot the Musical," the story of a boy determined to make his dreams come true as a dancer.

Teen Braden King of Virginia will perform the title role in the show, which runs from Valentine's Day through Feb. 19 in the Atwood Concert Hall.

Superstar Elton John composed the score for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, which is based on the 2000 film. A mix of local and out-of-state musicians will provide the music for the Anchorage production, which is presented by the Anchorage Concert Association and California production company Plan-B Entertainment.

The story of "Billy Elliot" unfolds amid a coal miner's strike in England the '80s. Billy, who is taking boxing classes he doesn't enjoy, happens upon a ballet class one day and is surprised by his passion for dance. His family isn't initially supportive of his ballet dreams. Eventually, however, they come around and he auditions for the prestigious Royal Ballet School.

Los Angeles actor Doug Tompos, who is playing Billy's dad, said he jumped at the opportunity to be part of "Billy Elliot." The story resonated with him.

"For my struggle in the show as Billy's dad, I've lost my wife, I'm trying to raise these two boys alone, and I think that fear that — 'what's Billy gonna do if he's different?' — I think that's universal," Tompos said. "When me as the dad makes that turnaround at the end of the show as supporting him, I just found that really moving when I first saw the movie and hoped that would be the same thing for in my family but also in all artists' families. You're always looking for acceptance and support for what you love."

Billy's love of dance intensifies as he spends time in ballet classes taught by Mrs. Wilkinson, played by Christine Negherbon. Eight Alaska girls between the ages of 9 and 13 are part of those lessons and were busy rehearsing on a recent snowy Saturday at Alaska Dance Theatre.

Led by Farah Canale, associate director of ADT and the girls' rehearsal coordinator, the dancers did a run-through of "Shine," one of their big numbers in the show.

A recording of the upbeat music played as the performers gleefully leaped and scurried across the floor. Afterward, Canale offered a mix of praise and critiques.

"We all know that we don't chasse like this," said Canale, extending a flexed foot that should have been pointed.

Later during the rehearsal, Janet Carr-Campbell offered tips on the girls' singing parts. Don't forget to enunciate the P in the word "up" or the D in the word "second," said Carr-Campbell, who has years of experience teaching local kids singing and dancing through The Music Machine program.

Janet Carr-Campbell works with local dancers on a song as they rehearse at Alaska Dance Theatre on Jan. 28 for their part in the production of “Billy Elliot” in Anchorage. The play runs Feb. 14-19 at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Soon, the rest of the cast would be in Anchorage. Trucking company Carlile Transportation, which has hauled sets, costumes and equipment to Anchorage for past shows, is doing the same for "Billy Elliot," said Lindsey Durrell with the Anchorage Concert Association.

Canale and Carr-Campbell both said "Billy Elliot" is a great opportunity for the girls to get to work alongside professional performers.

The girls auditioned for their parts last year, and it's their first big production other than winter staple "The Nutcracker," Canale said.

Emily Cross and other local dancers rehearse at Alaska Dance Theatre on Jan. 28 for the coming Anchorage production of “Billy Elliot.” The show runs Feb. 14-19 at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

"These kids are gonna be put in beyond what you're seeing here today," she said of their two big scenes. "They're going to get inserted into other crowd scenes. They're going to be really active throughout the whole production … they're on stage a lot."

Director of Plan-B Entertainment Andy Ferrara, who has brought other productions to Anchorage including "Les Miserables" and "Peter Pan," says he likes to use locals when he can.

"We try to look at each show and say, 'How can we reach out to the community?' And this one was just kind of an obvious one to give the girls," Ferrara said.

The show's message about chasing your dreams in difficult times — coupled with the Broadway show's popularity — are part of why "Billy Elliot" made the shortlist of potential productions for Anchorage, Ferrara said.

Tompos said he thinks the show should appeal to plenty of people.

"I think it's about real people. It's not outlandish characters. These are working-class people struggling to just make ends meet. I think that they'll relate to that," Tompos said of the audience.

"It's also a show that has a lot of humor, has beautiful dance and a great score — I just think it really contains everything people would want to see, and particularly people struggling with some similar things that we're dealing with in the show."

Billy Elliot the Musical

When: Feb. 14-19

Where: Atwood Concert Hall

Tickets: $49.25-$91.75 at the CenterTix box office or at Recommended for ages 12 and up.