Sunday, December 15, 2019
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    Meet Billy Elliot: Oliver “Ollie” Gardner

    Note: Ollie’s final performance as Billy in London was September 25, 2010

    Debut: May 12, 2009 (London)

    Total Performances as Billy: Unknown (Unreported data from the period he was Billy(Recorded data: 131.5 — includes 5 partial shows credited @ .5 ea)

    Ollie Gardner ThumbBorn on April 6, 1997, Oliver Gardner is affectionately known to family, friends and fans as Ollie. At the time of his departure from the show, he was the senior Billy in the London production.

    Like nearly all the boys who have played the role, the Saltford (near Bath, England) lad started dance at an early age. From the age of five, Ollie began accompanying his sister to her dance classes at the Dorothy Coleborn School of Dancing, in Bath, because his mother was a piano accompanist there.

    His first dance teacher, Annette Hind, who is the owner of the school, recalls: “Ollie would come and watch his sister’s dance classes because his mum was playing the piano and he would hide behind the piano because he was shy. I thought that because his sister was so good and because he came from such a musical family, that he must be good too. Eventually we persuaded him to join and it became clear very, very quickly, that he was going to be a star.” Ollie learned ballet, tap and modern dance at the school and in five years, at the age of nine, he became a Junior Associate at the Royal Ballet School and then, later, a Mid Associate there.Ollie Gardner as Billy Elliot

    He auditioned for Billy Elliot in April of 2008, was offered the role, and completed the rigorous “Billy School” in record time for someone of his young age. The average training time for the role is 18 months.

    Ollie’s debut as Billy, on May 12, 2009, was anything but ordinary. On his opening night, the show celebrated its fourth birthday and 1,700th show at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. His family, friends and teachers were all in the sold out house to see him finally dance the part that he had been dreaming about for years.

    When interviewed after the performance he said: “When I came off the stage I felt relieved. I was glad that finally all the training had paid off and that I had finally done it. I’m just really happy. I have always wanted to be Billy. Before I went on I was a bit nervous, but more excited.”

    In this video from the show’s “We Are Billy Elliot” series, Ollie talks about what it’s like to play Billy:

    Credit: Video by WestEndTheatre

    On March 13, 2010 Ollie, Jake Pratt (who played Michael, Billy’s best friend in the show), and the Ballet Girls performed on the BBC’s Let’s Dance for Sports Relief Show. They did a customized act that included parts of “Express Yourself” and “The Finale”:

    Credit: Video by MrWestendboy

    Just before the show’s 5th anniversary celebration, on March 29, 2010, Ollie appeared with Ann Emery (who plays his grandma in the show) on the BBC Breakfast program:

    Credit: Video by Copyist58

    You can see from those last few videos that this personable young man, this dynamo on stage, has gotten over his initial shyness.

    Ollie performed his last show as Billy on September 25, 2010, after over 16 months in the role. Members of the Ollie Gardner Appreciation Society and Billy Elliot the Forum were at the show in force and presented Ollie with parting mementoes of his time as Billy, including cards and a book with photos and personal messages from many of his fans, both those present and those who couldn’t be.

    With his incredible talent, there’s no doubt we’ll be hearing more from this young man in the days ahead.

    Says Ollie’s first dance teacher, Annette Hind, “He was destined to play that part. That was what he said he always wanted to do. When he was having his ballet lessons it was always his goal to dance professionally. I can’t tell you how proud I am. It almost brings tears to my eyes because I know he is going to have such a fantastic career.”

    Ollie-Gardner-in-the-lead-001

    Credit: Photo by Yui Mok

    For more information about Ollie Gardner visit:

    Billy Elliot the Forum , Facebook Tribute Site, Ollie Gardner Facebook Appreciation Society

     

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