Sunday, November 29, 2020

    Meet Billy Elliot: Leon Cooke

    Note: Leon’s Final known Performance as Billy in London was 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.

    Prior to his involvement with Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM), Leon acquired stage experience while appearing in two different productions of The Nutcracker with the 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)

    He auditioned for BETM, was chosen to attend the “Billy School” in Leeds and later learned 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 with 200 performances in the role, Leon’s last show was on 7-Jul-2007.

    Collage of Leon Cooke Photos

    Post Billy Activities

    Here are some of the highlights of “life after Billy” for Leon:

    • Attended and graduated from the Millennium Performing Arts College.
    • Has appeared on British TV in Ready Steady Cook, The Paul O’Grady Show, and Any Dream Will Do.
    • In 2009, played the role of Tadzio in Death in Venice – English National Opera (Belgium & Luxembourg).
    • In 2009, was Mr. Mistoffelees in Cats in the Channel Islands
    • Choreographed the Songtime Theatre Arts/Billy Youth Theatre production of BETM in 2010.
    • From 2010 to 2012, was Cliff Richard & the Rebel Leader cover in We Will Rock You (2nd UK National/International Tour)
    • In 2012, was in the ensemble and was 1st cover for the role of Pepper in Mama Mia (West End)
    • In 2013, played the role of Wilton in Barnum (Chichester Festival)
    • In 2014, was in the ensemble in Amadeus (Chichester Festival)

    For more information about Leon, visit: 

    Billy Elliot The Forum, Wikipedia


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