The first production of Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM), in a language other than English, opened in Seoul, South Korea on August 13, 2010. It ran for almost seven months with 233 performances on the stage of the LG Arts Center before closing on February 27, 2011.
The Korean version was essentially the same as previous productions in England, Australia and the United States, except for the elimination of the show’s Geordie slang and some of the strong language.
The question of whether boys with sufficient talent could be found in Korea, and then trained to handle the extremely demanding title role in the show, was an early point of discussion between Magistella, Inc. (the Korean company that produced the show there) and the BETM creative team. The reason for the concern was that Korea does not have much of a history of training child actors for commercial musicals. Moon Mi-ho, the CEO of Magistella, was convinced that there was enough talent and persuaded the BETM team.
Three rounds of auditions for the role of Billy began in February of 2009 all across the country and there were more than 800 applicants for the part. After the third round, like in other locations where the show has run, a “Billy School” was created in Seoul. The boys selected to attend the school were taught by professional trainers in a curriculum which included ballet, tap-dancing, acrobatics, hip-hop, contemporary dance, as well as acting and vocal training. After observing the results of that training, a final selection of four Billys and three Michaels was made.
To help the Seoul Billys prepare for their debuts, a visit was made in April of 2010 to New York to see the Broadway production of the show and meet the cast and visit backstage to see how everything was set up and ran. Here’s a photo of the Korean boys meeting up with their Broadway counterparts:
Credit: Photo by Bruce Glikas, © Broadway.com
A press launch event at which the Billys and other cast members were introduced was held on August 3, 2010 at the LG Arts Center.
Like in all productions of BETM, the younger cast members were expected to help promote the show in Seoul by appearing on various media outlets. In this video, Billys Jin-ho Jung and Sunu Lim, accompanied by Sung-hoon Lee, who played Billys best friend Michael, appear on the TV show Arts Stage on Wednesday:
The 16th Korean Musical Awards
On October 18, 2010, the four original Billys jointly won the Best New Actor at the 16th Korean Musical Awards. Here’s a picture and video footage of them receiving the award:
Credit: Video by 2yeonhee
The Billys also performed Electricity on the awards show:
LG Arts Center, Seoul
Home of Billy Elliot The Musical in South Korea for 233 Performances
August 13, 2010 to February 27, 2011
To see a complete listing of the rest of the South Korean cast, just click on the Cast Information button.
Video Credit: Except where noted, all videos in this article are by snowluv4.