Note: Aaron’s Final Performance as Billy in London was February 19, 2011
Debut: June 10, 2010 (London)
Total Performances as Billy: Unknown (Unreported data from the period he was Billy) (Recorded data: 70.5 (includes 3 partial shows credited @.5 ea)
Twelve-year-old Aaron Watson became the 23rd boy to play the role of Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical on stage in London’s West End, when he debuted at the evening performance on Thursday, June 10, 2010.
His family includes mum Karen, dad Nick, older siblings Lisa and Shaun and a menagerie of five pets (including a dog, two cats and two guinea pigs).
Though he didn’t know it at the time, Aaron, who is from King’s Lynn (a town in Norfolk, England), began training to be Billy when he was five years old, enrolling in a gymnastics class.Two years later he added dance to that training, as he began taking classes at Footlights Performing Arts Centre in King’s Lynn and, later, at the Bourne to Dance Academy of Dancing, in Bourne, England. His dance curriculum began with ballet and tap, and went on to include modern and contemporary. He also received drama training from the latter school.
At the age of nine, Aaron began auditioning for the role of Billy and gradually progressed through several callbacks. In November of 2007, he appeared with 13 past and present Billys at the 60th anniversary of BAFTA.
In this video of that performance, he can be seen toward the end – the smallest boy of the group who joins the boys tapping at the front of the stage and then ends up on James Lomas’s shoulders:
Credit: Video by karloz82
At the time of the BAFTA appearance, Aaron was enrolled in BETM London’s “Billy School”, which the show maintains in Leeds, England for boys who have been identified as potential Billys.
In 2009, Aaron took part in the popular British TV show “Britain’s Got Talent”. In this brief video clip, he is seen talking with the show’s Simon Cowell and then is viewed doing part of his performance:
Credit: Video by MrMerlin101
Since October, 2009, Aaron began living in the “Billy House” in London where the Billys, Michaels and Billys-to-be live together. He trained with the show’s creative staff there full time, preparing for his debut. The training was intense, with tutoring from 9:00am to 12:30pm five days a week and then training at the theatre or dance studios from 2:00pm to 8:00pm, Monday through Friday. And on Saturdays, except for no tutoring, it’s more of the same from 10:00am to 5:00pm.
Aaron talked about what it was like being away from home for any length of time for the first time in his life, “When I first went away it was really hard, but when you’ve been away for a while you start to get used to it. I’ve started to get more independent. It was really weird coming back (home) for the first time in a while. It was weird being back to a quiet place again.”
Aaron helped 19 past, present and future Billys celebrate the show’s 5th anniversary at the Victoria Palace Theatre (VPT) on March 31, 2010. In this photo, in which can be seen the future of the Billy rotation at the VPT, Aaron is seen with Billy-to-be Scott McKenzie (far right), as well as the last two Billys to take to the London stage before Aaron – Dean-Charles Chapman and Rhys Yeomans, who were all 12-years-old at the time:
There’s no question that dancing is at the center of his young life. Aaron has said that after his days as Billy Elliot are over, he’d like to perform someday with the Royal Ballet and eventually become a choreographer doing shows in the West End. But for the time being, he said he was very happy to be appearing IN a megahit show in the West End.
Credit: Photo by Alistair Muir
In an interview with his hometown newspaper, the Wisbech Standard, it was revealed that Aaron had a heart defect when he was born. Says his mum, Karen, ““It was awful – I definitely didn’t think he could do something like this. I wanted to wrap him in cotton wool. He just kept going for regular check-ups and I was told to treat him as normal.” Karen said he wanted to do something to show other children what could be done after suffering a handicap like that. So Aaron is donating his first paycheck to the Great Ormond Street Hospital where he was born and where his defect was successfully treated.
As to his debut, Aaron commented, “It was amazing doing the first performance”, he said. “I was really nervous before I went on, but when I got into it, it was so fun. The nerves all went and I got on with it. When everybody is clapping at the end it’s a really good feeling, because you feel like you have achieved something at the end.” Karen added, “It was very surreal seeing him on the stage. You know that’s your son up there but you still can’t take it in. He was not Aaron, he was being Billy. He spoke in a Geordie accent. On his first night he got three standing ovations – I just thought ‘Wow – that’s my son’.”
Aaron’s dream of becoming Billy had come true and he went on to wow not only his mum, but London theatre audiences for 70.5 performances in the title role. But every journey in life eventually comes to an end at some point, and Aaron’s journey as Billy ended with his final performance on the Victoria Palace stage on Saturday evening, February 19, 2011. His family, friends and many of his fans were present to cheer him on and wish him well in what is sure to be a successful future in whatever endeavors he chooses to pursue.
Photo Credits: The photos to the right and below compliments of the Aaron Watson – Billy Elliot Appreciation Society (See link below).
For More Information on Aaron Watson visit: