Note: Harrison’s Final Performance as Billy in London was on November 9, 2013
Debut: May 14, 2012 (London)
Total Performances as Billy: 149.5 (includes 5 partial shows credited @.5 ea)
He says that despite the fact that he loves sports and is fairly good at playing them, at his school his teachers recognized his love of dance and encouraged him to take formal lessons. So, at the age of eight, Harrison enrolled in classes at the Rollo Academy of Performing Arts and Freedom Movement. There, he discovered his love of hip hop, joining the school’s hip hop troupe. As part of that troupe, Harrison has won several competitions and awards, including “The Vale’s Got Talent”, a talent contest organised by the Vale of Belvoir Rotary Club. The then 10-year-old performed an energetic hip-hop dance routine to Mike Posner’s Cooler Than Me for the win.
Harrison Accepts His Vale’s Got Talent Award
When Harrison saw a poster announcing upcoming Billy Elliot the Musical auditions in his area, he decided he would “try my luck”. Six months (and several call backs) after the initial audition, he was invited to Leeds to do some training with the BE team during the summer of 2011. Shortly thereafter, he was offered the role of Billy.
All that hip hop training has put him in good stead as Harrison is a “Street Billy”. That is, when he performs his big Electricity number, his dancing reflects more modern and hip hop styles of dance rather than primarily the ballet movements that the “Ballet Billys” perform.
Here’s a sample of Harrison’s dance style from his award winning performance in the “Vale’s Got Talent” competition. Note: Before Harrison’s performance, there were performances by several others. Start the video at 4:18 to view Harrison’s number.
Credit: Video by Duncan G
Since being named to the role, Harrison has attended lessons at his home school in Nottingham, Toot Hill School, for only two weeks. He’s moved into the “Billy House” in London with other members of the child cast and receives his academic lessons there. Like any young person when moving away from home for the first time, when Harrison first moved into the Billy House in London, it seemed strange and he was nervous about it. But he says it just took a few days and now he feels like he’s “been here for months”.
On 14-May-2012, it was announced in all the trade publications that Harrison was joining the BETM London cast as the 30th Billy to grace the Victoria Palace stage. He is the 64th boy to play the role in BETM world-wide. His debut took place that evening. By all accounts, it went very, very well. When asked his impression of how he did, Harrison said “I was given a standing ovation. I just loved it. I felt really proud”. His mum, Sara, added “The dream ballet sequence was stunning. I’m still speechless — he smashed it.”
Harrison related that his stamina held up well (getting to that level of stamina is something all the Billys have to attain before performing in the arduous three hour show). In fact, in the glow of how well his debut had gone, he said he could have done it again.
Shortly after his debut, the show didn’t waste any time showcasing its newest Billy. On June 20, 2012, Harrison represented BETM at the annual West End Live, at which he performed Electricity. This video of Harrison was taken at the Cardinal Place launch event for West End Live. Cardinal Place is in the Victoria section of London, just a short distance from where BETM is performed at the Victoria Palace Theatre (VPT). Unfortunately, the stage utilized at the event was a fraction of the size of the one at the VPT, which made it difficult for the audience there to appreciate the true breadth of his street dance/acro version of the song for which he’s been getting raves. That said, he did a masterful job with it given the conditions:
Credit: Video by Sam4God
Since his debut, Harrison has been wowing audiences at the VPT on a regular basis and those London audiences are the fortunate beneficiaries of viewing the vast talents of this young man from Nottingham.
Credit: Photo by Alastair Muir
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