Note: Marcus’s Final Performance as Billy was in Toronto on September 3, 2011
Debut: September 15, 2010 (Chicago)
Total Performances as Billy: 87.5 (includes 1 partial show credited @.5)
Marcus Pei (DOB: 13-Nov-1997) had come a long way in just a few years of his short life. His hometown is Iowa City in Iowa, a state where another former Billy also hails from, Alex Ko, who played the role of Billy on Broadway.
And, like a number of Billys (past and current – Broadway: Liam Redhead; Toronto: Cesar Corrales and Myles Erlick) Marcus is a student at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS).
Prior to his entering NBS, Marcus attended Longfellow Elementary School in Iowa City where he was very active in student activities, including being elected Secretary of the Student Council there.
Many of the boys who play Billy, besides the acting, vocal and dance skills they bring to the role, also seem to have amazing talents in other areas. Like original Broadway Billys David Alvarez and Kiril Kulish, Marcus is an excellent pianist, having taken Suzuki method piano lessons for nine years with teacher Hikari Nakamura at the Preucil School of Music in his hometown of Iowa City.
As far as his dance training goes, prior to his enrollment at NBS, Marcus received training from both the Nolte Academy and the University of Iowa youth ballet program. He also got training from the Milwaukee Ballet School. While involved with the University of Iowa program, Marcus and Alex actually danced together in the University’s major annual dance event in 2007 — The Dance Gala. Professors Eloy Barragan and George de la Pena, whom both boys regard as mentors, choreographed the pair in a duet and as part of a group piece in that show. It speaks to the early dance excellence of both boys that they performed in that production, as rarely are children selected to dance with the older undergraduate and grad students in the University’s premier dance event.
His portrayal of Billy Elliot was not the first time Marcus was been on a stage in a theatrical event. He had prior acting experience beginning at the age of five in 2003, when he was one of two children in the University of Iowa’s production of Good Person of Szechwan. He also appeared in the University of Iowa’s 2007 production of Into the Woods, playing one of the Storyteller’s children in that show. And, since he’s been in Canada, Marcus also had experience on stage in a major dance production, appearing in the lead boy’s role of Misha in National Ballet of Canada’s Nutcracker in 2009.
His audition process for Billy Elliot was shorter than for some of the Billys. In March of 2010, Marcus and fellow Billy-to-be, Myles Erlick, went to an open audition in Toronto. He says it was a brief tryout, followed by a call back that same week, also in Toronto. He was asked to attend a more intensive 3-4 day call back in New York in April and was then notified he got the part in May.
In June of 2010, after the public announcement naming Marcus as one of six new Billys who would appear in one of the North American productions of the show, he was assigned to the production of BETM in Chicago. He travelled there that same month, preparing for the role with dance, acting and vocal training, along with the stamina building activities that are necessary to perform the arduous role of Billy in the almost three hour show, during which Billy is rarely off stage.
In August, 2010, Marcus participated with some of the other younger BETM Chicago cast members in a “Ballet and Boxing” event at Chicago’s Pritzker Park. The free event featured Billy Elliot cast members and instructors from The Joffrey Ballet and Lakeshore Athletic Clubs in some fun ballet and boxing activities.
Marcus made his debut on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at the matinee performance. With that debut, he became the first performer to replace one of the original Chicago Billys (Giuseppe Bausilio) — no easy task as his fellow Iowan, Alex Ko, can attest as he did the same on Broadway, replacing Tony Award winner Kiril Kulish.
st performance of the show there, on September 3, 2011, Marcus played Billy for the 87.5 time (includes one partial show @.5). His adventure as Billy Elliot over, he returned to NBS to continue his schooling and especially his study of ballet.
Marcus Pei, this talented young man from Iowa, from the very talented group of excellent Billys from Iowa and from NBS, made his mark on the role and on this show that has taken the world by storm.
Note: The pictures in this profile are utilized with the permission of the Pei family.
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