Meet Billy Elliot: Joseph Harrington

    Note: Joseph was a member of the final cast of the NY production. Final Performance as Billy on Broadway was January 8, 2012

    Debut: October 24, 2010 (Broadway)

    Total Performances as Billy: 131.75 (includes 3 partial shows credited @.5 + 1 partial show credited @.25)

    Joseph Harrington Thumb2Joseph Ryan Harrington (D.O.B. 19-Feb-1999), from Cincinnati, Ohio, became the 12th boy (including Tanner Pflueger) to play Billy Elliot on Broadway when he made his debut in the matinee performance of Sunday, October 24, 2010. He was also the 50th boy to play Billy worldwide and, at his debut, was the youngest ever to appear as Billy on Broadway.

    Joseph first received dance training, at the age of six, from the Otto M. Budig Academy, which is the pre-professional training wing of the Cincinnati Ballet. He has also attended Just Off Broadway and Cincinnati’s School for Creative & Performing Arts. His curriculum has included Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Hip Hop, as well as acting and vocal training.

    Peter_Pan_Joseph_HarringtonJoseph has performed with the Cincinnati Ballet in productions of the Nutcracker (2005) and Peter Pan (2008-09 season).

    Joseph isn’t a stranger to the Great White Way as, before BETM, he already had a Broadway show on his resume. At eight years old, he appeared at the St. James Theatre 1-Nov-2007 to 6-Jan-2008 in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! – The Musical, in an ensemble role. The next year he also performed in Nashville, in the traveling edition of The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.

    Credit: Photo by Peter Mueller

    On TV, Joseph was a dancer in the “Mega Music Festival” on Nickelodeon and he starred in the DVD “The Boy Ballet Dancer” with Finis Jhung, who worked with all the new Billys-to-be in New York and Chicago.

    josephj-harrington-2009As has been the case with many of the boys who play Billy, auditioning for the show wasn’t a matter of the Harrington’s seeing an ad for auditions and responding to it, but Joseph was actually “discovered” by the BETM childrens casting staff who are constantly searching for young talent. It was from a video of a dance competition Joseph competed in that brought him to the attention of the show in 2006. The BETM staff contacted Joseph through his then dance studio, Just Off Broadway, and he was invited to audition in Chicago. In an article with Joseph’s hometown newspaper (The Cincinnati Inquirer), Joseph’s mom — Missy Harrington, said that though Joseph was “the last kid standing” at the end of that audition, he was too young — only eight at the time.

    Credit: Photo Compliments of the “Joseph Harrington Fan Club” on Facebook

    But BETM kept tabs on Joseph in the ensuing three years and, in early 2009, he was selected to attend “Billy Camp” in New York, with 8-10 other boys. Thus began the arduous training that it takes to be Billy. Of those who started at the camp with him, only one other of those originals remained in the camp at the time Joseph was chosen to be Billy. That attests to the attrition rate in the Billy Camp, and to how talented and dedicated one has to be to attain the goal of playing Billy.

    During the Billy Camp, the NY Times did an article called “Flight Training: Building an Army of Billy Elliots”, in which Joseph was featured. Early in his participation in the Billy Camp, Joseph was described in the article like this: “a 10-year-old Billy Camper from Cincinnati with the proportions and grace of a future danseur noble, was practicing his pirouettes under the exacting eye of the teacher Finis Jhung…”


    Credit: NY Times Photo by Suzanne DeChillo

    Mr. Jhung, who had the responsibility of working on the ballet techniques of all the prospective Billys for the North American productions of the show, and who was a principle dancer with the former Harkness Ballet, had this to say about Joseph while excitedly watching his young charge execute a sequence of six turns with the knee bent and finishing up on a half-toe, “Do you realize what he’s doing? Most professional males cannot do this, and he’s only 10 ½.”

    In late May, while continuing to hone their skills in Billy Camp, Joseph was among just a handful of boys, in New York and elsewhere, who eagerly awaited hearing whether their long months of training had paid off by their selection for one of the few slots available in the North American productions of the show. At that time he said, “It’s nerve-wracking. But no matter what happens, it’s been great to meet different people and learn different things. But in the back of my mind the goal is always to be Billy. I hope they tell me soon.”

    On June 10, 2010, Joseph got his wish. The creative team told him (along with five other boys) that he had been chosen to play Billy — in Joseph’s case on Broadway. He and his family were, of course, ecstatic. Missy Harrington said she “knew in my gut” that Joseph had a real shot. “We didn’t stay in New York on a whim.”

    In addition to all the dance, singing and acting skills he’s acquired, he found he even got to use one skill he learned when he danced the role of Peter Darling in the Cincinnati Ballet’s production of Peter Pan. “The Billy Elliot role requires flying. He even has flying experience from Peter Pan!” says Missy Harrington. She adds, “It doesn’t get much better than this!”


    Credit: Photo by Peter Mueller

    However, one suspects it DID get much better when Joseph stepped onto that Imperial Theatre stage in front of 1,500 appreciative audience members and finally performed the role he worked so hard to attain. In April, 2011, Joseph was interviewed by Brian Douglas of Q102 in Cincinnati. Here’s a video of that interview:


    Credit: Video by BackstageWithBrian

    When Joseph performed as Billy on the closing day of the show (8-Jan-2012) with his three fellow Billys, that final time was his 137.75th.


    Life After Billy

    • Six months after BETM closed on Broadway (and Joseph finished playing Billy), he played the role of “Kid” in How Deep is The Ocean? at The Theater at St. Clements in New York City (July, 2012).
    • That same year, Joseph filmed the role of “Otto” in the film Contest by Anthony Giunta, released in October, 2013.
    • Joseph performed the song “Chance to Dance” from To Dance – The Musical for a video that was released in the summer of 2012:

    Credit: Video by Tibor Zonai

    • In October and November 2014, Joseph performed as “Ariel” in The Tempest in La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City. 
    • Joseph returned home to Cincinnati and continued his education at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, graduating with the Class of 2017.
    • From July 17 to August 3, 2019 Joseph performed with the ensemble in Hello Dolly! at Maine State Music Theatre.

    • Joseph is now in his Junior year at Pace University Commercial Dance and has been involved in many dance performances there.

    For more information about Joseph Harrington, visit:

    Joseph Harrington Fan Club, Billy Elliot the Forum, Wikipedia, Joseph at IMDb


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