A production of Billy Elliot The Musical (BETM) took place at the AFAS Circustheater in The Hague, The Netherlands, from 6-Nov-2014 to 7-Nov-2015.
The process of staging the Dutch production of BETM began in June of 2013 when, led by impresario Joop Van Den Ende, Stage Entertainment announced it would start a nationwide search for young boys to take on the challenging title role. The company had wanted to produce the musical for years, and it finally decided to take a first step towards realizing their plan.
The availability of talented boys to play the role of Billy was considered a particular challenge if a Dutch production were to succeed. Due to labor laws that are stricter than in the UK or USA, Dutch children are, in principle, only allowed to perform 23 shows per year. Van Den Ende was able to get an exception to those labor laws to allow the Billys and Michaels to play their roles 40 times per year. Still, a Dutch version of BETM for an extended stay in The Hague would require many more alternating Billys than elsewhere. Clearly, the original creative team in London was worried that a small country such as the Netherlands might not offer sufficient talent.
So it was that in the summer of 2013 the announced talent search was initiated. The company auditioned many boys, some with and others without prior theatre experience. From over 1000 applications, 150 boys were selected to audition formally for the role of Billy. That process took several months, after which it was determined there was indeed enough raw talent to continue onward.
50 children from the auditions were invited to attend the Billy Elliot sCOOL in Amsterdam. There they were provided with lessons in ballet, tap dancing, acrobatics, singing and acting to get them level they’d need to perform in the strenuous show. Training took place over a period from October 2013 to May 2014, during which the boys attended classes for two afternoons per week and on weekends. The sCOOL was based on the famous Billy Elliot Academy in Leeds, England, created for the express purpose of training potential Billy talent for the original London production of the show.
Here’s a brief video clip of the boys being put through their paces at the sCOOL:
Credit: Video by Robbert-Jan Veldhuijzen
After a year of intensive preparations at the sCOOL, all agreed there was a level of talent in enough young people to be able to put on a successful production of the show. The show would be performed at the AFAS Circustheater in The Hague from 6-Nov-2014 with an official Opening Night taking place on 30-Nov-2014. All shows prior to Opening Night were considered “previews” or, as they’re called in Holland, “tryouts”.
Editor’s Note: TheSkykid.com wishes to acknowledge the significant contributions made by BE Forum member “onceagain” for her help with the research and translation from the Dutch for various pieces of information in this article and in the Billy profiles of each of the six Dutch Billys. There is no doubt the quality of these articles would be so much less without her contributions. Thank you onceagain!!
On Tuesday, 19-Aug-2014, at a well orchestrated and publicized press conference, six boys were announced as having been chosen to originate the role of Billy in The Netherlands. They are: Tydo Korver, Roan Pronk, Carlos Puts, Jillis Roshanali, Stijn van der Plas and Svenno van Kleij.
For the complete profiles of the original Dutch Billys, click on their names (below their pictures):
|Korver||Pronk||Puts||Roshanali||van der Plas||van Kleij|
The production of BETM in the Netherlands had a particularly large child cast, so alongside the six boys alternating the role of Billy, the original cast also contained five Michaels, Debbies, Tall Boys, Small Boys, and Ballet Girl groups.
Cast 1 Milestones
On August 31, 2014, the six Billys of the Dutch production were joined by senior London Billy Elliott Hanna to promote the soon to open BETMNL at the annual musical Sing-a-Long portion of The Uitmarkt, an annual event that marks the opening of the cultural season in Amsterdam. The boys performed a specially choreographed version of BETM’s signature song Electricity. Here’s a video of their performance:
Credit: Video by Musicalsites musicalniuews
Shortly after the first preview, Bill Gates paid a visit to the show and the six Dutch Billys got to meet him.
By 27-Nov-2014, five of the six Billys had debuted and a wonderful publicity trailer was produced with footage of all six Billys in action:
Credit: Video by billyelliot.nl
After 16 previews, the show officially opened on 30-Nov-2014, with Carlos Puts chosen to be the Opening Night (Premiere) Billy. That evening, the theatre and production company pulled out all the stops with a terrific night of activities reminiscent of a Hollywood premiere, including a red carpet, and many special celebrity guests.
All six of the original Billys came on stage at the end of the show and together they performed a group rendition of Electricity. Here is a video of this performance:
Credit: Video by Martijntje Tijni Hubers
On 7-Jan-2015, at the annual Musical Awards Gala in Utrecht, BETMNL won three awards including Best Musical, Best Young Talent (Carlos Puts), and Best Script/Lyrics/Translation (Martine Bijl).
Due to the strict child labor laws in The Netherlands, children are limited as to the number of performances they may do each year. As a result, a second cast of all the children’s roles, including the boys that play Billy Elliot, had to be trained and put in to place so that by mid-year 2015, they’d be ready for debut.
The six boys who were chosen to play Billy in the second cast were Faas Jonkers, Sammy Kuit, Samuel Reurekas, Wisse Scheele, Laurian Serno and Nick van der Stroom. The first of the new Billys to debut was Sammy Kuit on 26-Jun-2015.
For the complete profiles of the second cast of Dutch Billys, click on their names (below their pictures):
|Jonkers||Kuit||Reurekas||Scheele||Serno||van der Stroom|
Six new Michaels were in Cast 2 – including Tevin Themen who had started a few months earlier.
Cast 2 Milestones
Before the second cast of Billys started performing in the show, they visited London to see the 10th Anniversary performance of the West End production of BETM on 12-May-2015. Here’s a picture of them with a host of past London Billys:
It was announced on 4-Sep-2015 that the final show of BETM in The Netherlands would be on Saturday, 7-Nov-2015, almost exactly a year after the show opened in previews.
Sammy Kuit played the role of Billy in this final performance. The show ended with a special mash-up featuring all 12 Billys and 11 Michaels who had performed those roles in the show over the past year. Here’s a video showing highlights of the rehearsals and the actual performance that night, and also interviews with cast and audience members:
Credit: Video by BackStageNowNL
This video shows the final mash-up in full:
Credit: Video by Musicalsites musicalnieuws
Credit: Production photos on this page are by Alastair Muir
A four-part promotional TV program called From Audition to Applause with Dutch musical theatre star Chantal Janzen as hostess was presented on Dutch TV beginning in November, 2014. As the show’s title would suggest, the show followed the search for the Dutch Billys (and Michaels) from the audition process right through until the premiere of the show. The show has since been recorded onto video and uploaded to Youtube by Billy Elliot Holland. While the original show was in Dutch, in the version that is linked below, English subtitles have been added by Billy Elliot The Forum contributor SolidarityForever. For those looking to really see the personality of the Dutch Billys, watching these four episodes is highly recommended:
Unfortunately, as of this writing, Episode 4 has yet to have English subtitles added. But here it is in Dutch: