Note: James’s Final known Performance as Billy in London was January 7, 2006
Debut: April 2, 2005 (London)
Total Performances as Billy: Unknown (Unreported data from the period he was Billy ) (Recorded data: 40.25– includes 1 partial show credited @ .25)
Though James says he was into gymnastics (in fact winning several competitions), karate and football (soccer) before his love for the stage began to take over, “I have always said since I was young – well, since I was 11 or 12 – I want to go up the West End.” But unlike the boy he was to play in Billy Elliot the Musical, James said that his parents (dad was a steelworker and mum a hair dresser) have always been supportive.
If he was to fulfill his dream, he knew he would need to dance. His mum found a dance teacher, Sharon Berry at the Sharon Berry School of Theatre Dance in Sheffield, who warned him: “You’ll be the only lad in the class.” But he didn’t mind that he said. “Working with lasses is good.” It was Berry who saw the Billy recruiting advertisement and encouraged James to audition.
He will never forget standing with his mum in the rain, with “loads of lads” waiting to be auditioned. He had to do a warm-up, gymnastics, and street dancing. As he relates the story “and then someone said, ‘Put on yer ballet shoes’ and I was like – oh my God – cos I’d never done ballet before. But another boy there was really good, so I copied him.” He also sang Never Had a Dream Come True at his tryout.
And then his dream did come true. He and his mother were rushing to catch a train back to Sheffield, but before they left, director Stephen Daldry told James: “It’s not a case of if we want to see you again, it is a case of when.”
After almost a year of further auditions and then training in London and at the newly established “Billy School” in Leeds, the three boys who would play Billy in the show were chosen from the nine finalists (from the over 3000 nationwide who had auditioned). Besides James, his fellow originating Billys were George Maguire and Liam Mower. In the days ahead before the opening of the show in previews, the three spend countless hours together and became good friends.
Once he debuted on 2-Apr-2005, because he was 15, his days in the role were already numbered. Toward the end of the year, his voice had gotten noticeably lower and some muscle was beginning to show on his previously skinny frame. He left the show “officially” on 17-Sep-2005, but was called back on occasion to fill in after that. He did his last shows in the role in January of 2006.
James and George Maguire were interviewed on the British TV program Today With Des and Mel:
Credit: Video by ufopop2000
On 26-Feb-2006, James joined his fellow originating Billys George Maguire and Liam Mower to make Laurence Olivier Award history. The trio was the first ever to receive a joint Best Actor in a Musical award. They also were the youngest to ever receive an Olivier Award.
On 12-May-2006, James and George (who had left the show in December, 2005) came back to join Liam (who was still doing the show) to take turns performing in the 1st anniversary show that evening.
Post Billy Activities
Here are some of the highlights of “life after Billy” for James:
- James was featured in Strictly Dance Fever performing part of the BETM finale, and in several TV interviews and short clips related to the Musical.
Credit: Video by accordeonist3
- In July 2006 he played the title role of young blind Nicholas Saunderson in the new musical “No Horizon” in Penistone / Northern England and was well received for his performances.
- In September, 2006, he won a place at the dance and drama school “Millennium” in London.
- He starred in the short film King Ponce, which debuted at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
- He was featured in an episode of Super Sweet 16 UK as a dance partner for the party.
- Following drama school, he was in Dirty Dancing, as Swing/Understudy: Jordan.
- He played the role of Espresso in Starlight Express in Bochum, Germany.
- 18. August – 22. August 2014 appeared in Evita in Slovenia.
For more information about James, visit: