The Fountain Hall stage of the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia will host a production of Billy Elliot The Musical (BETM), from April 26 to June 18, 2023.
The recently renovated theater, which seats 458 patrons, features intimacy, excellent acoustics, and state-of-the-art lighting and audio equipment.
Neptune Theatre has a rich history. Theatre has been performed on the site since 1915. Originally known as the Strand Theatre and designed by Nova Scotia’s first professional architect, Andrew Cobb, the Strand was reputed to be the first vaudeville house constructed specifically as a theatre. After a serious fire in 1926, the theatre was extensively redecorated. Two years later it underwent further renovation and emerged on July 9, 1928, as the Garrick Repertory Theatre. Summer vaudeville alternated with the winter repertory until the stock market crash of 1929 caused the theatre to close its doors. It reopened again a year later as a movie cinema called the Odeon, which is what it remained for the next 33 years.
In 1962, the old Odeon Theatre was purchased for $100,000 by Colonel Sidney Oland (Oland Breweries). The Olands family later gave the building to Neptune. With this and another $60,000 raised by the Neptune Theatre Foundation for renovations, Neptune Theatre was born. On July 1st 1963, Neptune celebrated its first opening night with a production of Major Barbara. Neptune was a hit and began a repertory theatre that presented plays year-round. It was the only Canadian theatre at the time to operate 52 weeks of the year.
By the late 1980s, the physical structure of the Neptune had badly deteriorated. It was apparent that the theatre would have to be substantially upgraded and expanded. Thus the New Neptune Project commenced.
The movement to build a new Neptune started in 1989 with an official proposal released in 1993. It outlined plans to take the old 19,000 square foot building and retain the main auditorium with its original Andrew Cobb design, to be called Fountain Hall. A 57,000 square foot facility would be created that added a new Studio Theatre, several rehearsal spaces, a Theatre School, increased office space, and additional improved facilities for both patrons and staff, including adequate restrooms.
In September 1997, the new complex opened appropriately with a re-staging of Major Barbara. The New Neptune was a hit and well-received by theatre goers and the community at large. You can see a complete list of past productions performed at the Neptune Theatre since then, here.
Today Neptune Theatre is Atlantic Canada’s largest professional regional theatre. For the 2022/23 season Neptune is celebrating its 60th diamond anniversary and it has been a season like most others in its history, offering patrons a broad range of nine plays and musicals and capped by its production of Billy Elliot The Musical — the season’s final show.
Billy Elliot The Musical
Originally scheduled to be presented at Neptune during 2019, but sidetracked like so much else due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the show will finally be presented from April 26 to June 18, 2023.
Auditions were held in October, 2022 for the production. The cast was announced on February 1, 2023 by the Neptune Theatre on their Facebook page. Rehearsals began for most of the cast the week of April 3, 2023 and continued right through tech week and previews.
Directed by Neptune’s Artistic Director Jeremy Webb and choreographed by Ray Hogg, the much-anticipated show has over 120 people bringing it to life. Webb adds that they’ve assembled an amazing team of artists on and off stage, with the majority of the production team being Nova Scotian.
Neptune’s search to cast the role of Billy was extensive. But Webb said that “… two stood out with incredible energy and stage craft.” They are onstage for 85% of the show and they carry us through the story. It’s vital they deliver.”
So two young men, new to the role of Billy Elliot, were cast. They are Nathan Malolos and Lennox Blue Powell.
Webb has said that the role of Billy is tremendously challenging and has traditionally been played by multiple actors who alternate performances. He said this will be the case for the show at Neptune, with each boy performing as Billy for four shows per week and when they aren’t playing the lead, they will play the role of Tall Boy/Posh Boy.
Even though the show’s title character is a child, and the story is an uplifting one of which people of many ages can relate, Webb notes that it is not a kids’ show, describing it as “gritty, dramatic, joyous, hilarious and challenging.”
To see a complete listing of the rest of the Neptune Theatre cast, just click on the Cast Information button.
Over the run of Billy Elliot, the theatre expects to see more than 25,000 people coming to Neptune and downtown Halifax. Audience members can expect the highest quality production of a world-renowned show with professional talent in a venue that is designed to be a theatre.
Webb said in a recent interview when talking about the delay in producing BETM at Neptune that it was almost like it was meant to be in 2023, as the show about a boy stepping out of the expected norms while facing pushback from his family and community seems more relevant now than ever.
Says Webb, “Billy Elliot will be the show that folks will remember for years to come. I saw it over 15 years ago and it is still with me.”