Note: Daniel’s final North American Tour performance as Billy was in San Francisco on August 20, 2011
Debuts: April 25, 2009 (Melbourne, Australia) November 14, 2010 (North American Tour – Durham, NC)
Total Performances as Billy: 77 [Melbourne = 13] [North American Tour = 64]
Daniel Russell (D.O.B. = 28-Apr-1996) was the last of the boys to join the Billy rotation for the Melbourne production of BETM in 2009. He debuted there on Saturday, April 25, 2009 and did his 13th and last show there on June 11, 2009, during the production’s final week of performances in Australia. Daniel was the third Aussie to play the role of Billy in American productions of the show.
After his short stay in BETM Australia, Daniel went back to attending Dancin’ Mates Performing Arts Dancing School in Umina Beach, just northeast of Sydney. The school, which is owned by Daniel’s parents, offers dance classes in Ballet, Hip Hop, Street, Jazz, Tap, Modern, and Lyrical, as well as classes in drama and singing. That Daniel has an entertainer’s genes is no surprise as his mom is a dancer, specializing in ballet, while his dad also has a heavy background in dance, but also has a classically trained singing voice and has performed professionally in everything from opera to musical theater.
His journey to be Billy began in 2006. His initial audition was actually via a DVD of himself that he submitted to the BETM casting people in Australia. He was then asked to travel to Sydney to take part in an open audition with many other hopefuls. After that audition, Daniel and another boy were pulled aside by the casting director and told they had much promise but were a bit too young to play Billy. They were told to get more experience and to apply again.
Daniel heeded that advice and tried out for other shows, landing the lead in Oliver! He would go on to do about 10 additional auditions in the next two years, during which he saw some of the boys he had attended auditions with be selected to be in BETM. And then he was asked to travel to Melbourne for what he labels a “checkup audition”, after which he was offered the role of Billy in the Melbourne production of the show. As was mentioned above, he only got to perform the role 13 times in Australia before the show closed there.
But Daniel and his talent wouldn’t be forgotten. Daniel, along with two other Australian Billys (Dayton Tavares and Michael Dameski), were offered roles in the American versions of BETM, when the producers here decided to take advantage of their talent and training.
Daniel traveled to NYC with his mom in early August, 2010 to begin rehearsing and training to reprise his role of Billy on the US National Tour. When the full cast met for the first time to begin rehearsals on September 7th, Daniel was pictured with three of his fellow Billys (Giuseppe Bausilio was still in Chicago performing with that cast) and Faith Prince, who would play Mrs. Wilkinson in the show.
On October 6, 2010, along with the rest of the cast, Daniel moved from NYC to Durham to continue preparations for the opening of the Tour there. In an interview with the Durham Herald-Sun, when asked what it took to be a Billy, Daniel replied with one word “Training”. He said that while all the preparation is enjoyable and necessary, but then, remembering what it was like when he played Billy in Australia, he added “I love rehearsals, but I love getting on stage with a full house and to get all that applause at the end”.
On November 3, 2010, Daniel and Griffin Birney (who played Michael in the show) made the rounds of the various radio and TV stations in the Durham area to promote the show. The picture at the left shows him in one of those radio studios that day.
Daniel’s American debut took place at DPAC in Durham, North Carolina, on the last day of that tour stop – November 14, 2010 at the 1:00pm matinee.
Like all the Billys, Daniel shared on-going responsibility for promoting the show in each new city. But unlike the normal media outlet stops, this one was unique.
When the original Tour closed in August of 2011 in San Francisco, Daniel returned to his native Australia where he continues his studies including dance. Like his two fellow Australian Billy colleagues before him, Daniel has left his mark on musical theatre in America.
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