Meet Billy Elliot: Leon Cooke

Note: Leon’s final known performance as Billy in London was on July 7, 2007.

Debut: September 19, 2005 (London)

Total Performances as Billy: Unknown — said to be 200  (Unreported data from the period he was Billy) (Recorded data: 172 — includes 8 partial shows credited @ .5)

Leon Cooke ThumbLeon Cooke was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, on 7-Aug-1991.  He is one of eight children.  Like Leon, all of his seven siblings have been dancers, the children inspired by a father who is a dance teacher and a mother who also danced.

Leon began taking dance lessons at the tender age of two years old at The Marilyn Jones Dance Centre, located a short distance from his home in Newcastle-under-Lyme.  During his time there he studied ballet, tap, gymnastics, theatre craft, song and dance and street dance.  Later, he was both a Junior and Mid-Associate with the Royal Ballet School.

Prior to his involvement with Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM), Leon acquired stage experience while appearing in two different productions of The Nutcracker with  Birmingham Royal Ballet (1999 & 2001), Aladdin (2002-2003), the UK National tours of Tosca (2002) and the King & I (2003) and as John Darling in Peter Pan (2003-2004).

Leon Cooke (Billy) and Joey Phillips (Michael)
Leon Cooke (Billy) and Joey Phillips (Michael)

Leon auditioned for BETM, was chosen to attend the “Billy School” in Leeds and later learned that he had won the part.   He then moved into the “Billy House” in London with the boys who played Billy and Michael in the show and the young actresses who played Debbie Wilkinson.  At that point he was in serious training/rehearsals to ready him for his debut as Billy.  That debut would come on 19-Sep-2005 at the age of 14.  He was the replacement for one of the three original Billys, James Lomas, who had left the show a couple of days before, thus making Leon just the 4th boy to ever play the role of Billy on stage.  That same night, Joey Phillips also debuted, as Billy’s best friend Michael.  Joey had been at the Billy School with Leon and then in training/rehearsals with him in the weeks before their debut.

After being in the role for a couple of months, the BBC children’s show Blue Peter spent a day (18-Nov-2005) with Leon to see what a typical day in the life of a Billy was like.  The segment of the show that resulted was aired in December of that year.

Credit: Video by Inspired by Billy

Just under two years after his first show as Billy and with 200 performances in the role, Leon’s last show was on 7-Jul-2007.

Collage of Leon Cooke Photos

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Life After Billy

After leaving BETM, Leon attended and graduated from Millennium Performing Arts College, where he studied acting and musical theatre.

2007   Leon appeared on British TV in Ready Steady Cook and The Paul O’Grady Show.  Despite having finished his run as Billy earlier in the year, Leon was asked to represent BETM by performing Electricity on BBC TV show Any Dream Will Do.  Leon’s phenomenal performance can be seen here:

Credit: Video by billyelliotlondon

2008 to 2009 –  Leon performed between December 2008 and February 2009 as “Tadzio” in the English National Opera’s production of Death in Venice at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels.  He also appeared in two gala shows at the Grande Theatre de la Ville in Luxembourg.  In 2009, Leon performed in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats as “Quaxo/Mr. Mistoffelees” in Jersey (Fort Regent) and Guernsey (Beau Sejour)In December of 2009, he appeared on series 3 of Sky One’s Got to Dance, winning three gold stars for his tap routine.

2010 to 2012 –  Leon choreographed the Songtime Theatre Arts/Billy Youth Theatre production of BETM in 2010.  He returned to the Victoria Palace Theatre in May 2010 to take the stage for the special finale of the 5th Anniversary of Billy Elliot’s opening in the West End.  From 2010 to 2012, Leon played the role of “Cliff Richard/Rebel Leader” cover for We Will Rock You in the 2nd UK National/International Tour.  Leon played the role of “Pepper 1st cover/Ensemble” in Mamma Mia in the West End in 2012.  

Leon Cooke (second from left) in the West End production of “Mamma Mia”

2013 –  Leon played “Wilton” in Barnum the musical at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

2014 –  Leon appeared in the grand finale of Billy Elliot the Musical Live by Working Title Films in 2014.  He was in the ensemble for Amadeus at the Chichester Festival Theatre.  At the end of 2014 and into 2015, Leon was an acrobat and in the ensemble of Miss Saigon in the West End.

2015 –  During 2015, Leon appeared in commercials for Old NavyGap, and McDonald’s.  In April, he performed at the Olivier Awards and the Royal Variety Performance, which were both televised.  On May 12, Leon celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Billy Elliot in the West End, joining other past Billys on stage at the end of the performance.  Leon played “Daniel” in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers during July/August of 2015.  The show was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2016 for Best Musical Revival.  The cast performance at the awards show can be seen on this video clip:

Credit: Video by TheMusicalTheatre

2016 –  In March, Leon returned to Mamma Mia’s cast for a TV performance on ITV’s Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.  He would reprise the role later at the Olivier awards in a performance to celebrate the show’s 15th birthday in the West End.  Leon performed as “Tweedle Dee” in Wonderland at The National Theatre in London.  He also took part in two workshops at the National Theatre Studio — “Officer Smith” in a Threepenny Opera, and “Paris” in Helen by Euripides.  Leon appeared as a “Prison Inmate” in the film Paddington 2.  Filmed in 2016 and 2017 for release in 2018, Leon played a “Leerie” in the film Mary Poppins Returns for Walt Disney Studios.

2017 –  In January, Leon was the assistant choreographer for the BBC 2 series Our Dancing Town by Steve Elias from BETM.  In the musical On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2017, Leon performed as a swing in the ensemble.  He also appeared in the hit film Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!

2018 –  Mary Poppins Returns, which Leon had filmed in 2016/17, was released in 2018.  In it, he played one of the “Leeries” (another name for lamplighter).  While his presence in this film clip isn’t obvious, it will give the reader a sense of what Leon’s role entailed.  The clip is from the production number in the film called Trip a Little Light Fantastic:

Credit: Video by DisneyMusicVEVO

In 2018, Leon also played “Leo” in a short drama, Leaves for The Moon, an animated story where a middle-aged owner of a coffee shop falls in love with a man half her age.  A later tragic discovery changes their happiness.

2019 –  In the 2019 film Rocketman, about the life of Sir Elton John, Leon played “Hugh”. 

Leon Cooke (Hugh) and Taron Egerton (Elton) in Rocketman

Leon was also featured in a Nestle commercial in 2019.  He performed on TV for the 75th Anniversary commemorations of D-Day in front of world leaders, military and veterans, which was filmed in Portsmouth, England.

For more information about Leon, visit: 

Billy Elliot The Forum, Wikipedia, Facebook, Instagram

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