Note: Liam’s final performance as Billy on Broadway was August 29, 2010
Debut: December 23, 2009 (Broadway)
Total Performances as Billy: 69 (No partial shows)
Born on 8-Jun-1995, Liam Redhead made his Broadway debut as Billy Elliot on 23-Dec-2009. Liam, who is from North Bay, Ontario, Canada, turned 15 a couple of months before he left the show and, at the time of his leaving, was the senior Billy in age in all productions of the musical world-wide.
Like others playing the role, Liam got involved with dance because his sister was. At the age of seven, he began going to hip hop classes with her at the Barbara Treleaven School of Dance in his hometown. He liked it so much that he started studying jazz and tap and then, at age nine, he joined the school’s competitive group and was introduced to ballet.
Over the next three years, Liam competed in Canada as well as in New York, Atlantic City and Las Vegas — where he won the national title of Mr. Pre Teen with Dance Educators of America as well as the President’s Cup for the highest mark at the competition.
In the summer of 2007, Liam received a scholarship to attend the Young Dancer Summer Workshop at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theater in New York City. Then, in the Fall of that year, he moved to Toronto to attend the prestigious National Ballet School (NBS). He said it was while he was at NBS that he developed a passion for classical dance. As a result of his work at NBS, Liam starred in the role of Misha in the James Kudelka version of The Nutcracker with The National Ballet of Canada in December 2007 and 2008.
Unlike some who have played the role of Billy Elliot, world-wide, the time between Liam’s being “discovered” by the BETM team and actually being told he had the role was very short. He auditioned in Toronto in June of 2009, while he was still attending NBS. After a couple of callbacks there, he went to New York for the final auditions and to meet the creative team. At the end of that week of auditioning in New York, Liam was told he got the part. He then went home for the month of August, before heading back to the Big Apple to began rehearsals and training for the role in early September.
There are many stories about how the cast of Billy Elliot the Musical represents a second family to the actors who portray the roles in the show. This is especially true of the younger cast members, of which there are currently 26 on Broadway and many times that number in London (as the West End show employs multiple casts in most of the younger cast member roles – including three separate casts of ballet girls). Upon his arrival in New York, Liam was immediately included in all the activity surrounding the show and was embraced by his fellow Billys, both offstage and in official show milestones and publicity. This picture (right) is of Liam and other members of the cast dressed in Halloween garb as they tricked or treated their way through the back stage dressing rooms.
As he prepared for his debut, Liam appeared on Good Morning America (GMA) with fellow Billys Alex Ko and Dayton Tavares, donating warm coats for the needy. It was during this appearance that GMA news anchor, Juju Chang, mentioned that Liam would debut just before Christmas.
Right after the calendar turned to 2010, Liam was interviewed by his hometown newspaper, the North Bay Nugget. In the article, he talked about his debut and said, while nervous, how thrilled he was to finally be on the Imperial Theatre stage after all the months of hard work preparing for it. He said, “I had to portray mean and angry when I just really wanted to smile. Things worked out better than I expected,” he said in describing his first show, “Everyone’s so nice and the crew is so supportive.”
In his first month as Billy, Liam’s main emphasis was on building the stamina the arduous role requires. He soon mastered everything though and, like all the Billys, over time he grew into the role and received great reviews for his portrayal and his graceful dance style. He also became known for his trademark smile that he had talked about in that interview as being so hard to suppress during moments in the show when he was supposed to be angry and frustrated. While his initial contract ran through June, his stay on Broadway was extended through the summer months. On August 29, 2010, Liam portrayed Billy for the last time after which he returned home to Canada and to the National Ballet School where classes were to begin the first week of September.
While preparing for her own Broadway debut, Billy Elliot star Kate Hennig, who is also Canadian and who played Billy’s ballet teacher in the show, did some preparatory work with The National Ballet School. In the popular backstage blog she wrote on the official site of the Broadway show, just before Liam’s debut, Kate wrote about meeting and observing Liam at NBS before he was even chosen for the role of Billy. In part, what she said regarding Liam’s preparations for his debut …”bit by bit he learns to move these enormous dances from solo sessions in the rehearsal hall, to the raked stage, the company, and all lighting, sound, set and costume elements. Undaunted. With his gorgeous hair, and winning smile, and this great unconscious habit of standing on pointe in his tap shoes.”
Eight months later, Kate devoted a portion of another blog entry to Liam’s departure from the show. Describing his last show, among other things she said, “I watched Liam do his onstage warm-up and saw the young man that has emerged from the boy I watched over a year ago in a class at the National Ballet School of Canada. The growth in his confidence, his desire, his professionalism… all these adult terms that can now be applied as he climbs elegantly into his mid-teens. (How many teenagers do you know that can actually be called elegant?!)”. She added, “And the play works itself out perfectly: we are both crying, and smiling, and loving each other… and my young friend Liam is sent off into his future. “
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