Meet Billy Elliot: Stratford Festival

The Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario

The Stratford Festival is currently presenting a regional production of Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM) at the Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, from April 16 to November 3, 2019 with an official opening night on May 28.  This production is set to do more performances than any other North American regional production of BETM to date, with a staggering 104 performances scheduled.

Note: Due to popular demand the production has been extended to Nov 24, 2019 with a total of 119 performances now scheduled.

The Stratford Festival is North America’s largest classical repertory theatre company.  The idea for the festival came about in the early 1950s when journalist Tom Patterson had an idea to rejuvenate Stratford’s economy, after the railway industry had pulled out of the city, by creating a Shakespeare festival.  Patterson managed to get in touch with British director Tyrone Guthrie, who was interested in the idea, and he traveled to Stratford, eventually becoming the first Artistic Director of the company.  The Stratford Festival was officially incorporated on Oct 31, 1952.

Work began on a concrete amphitheatre with a revolutionary thrust stage.  This stage is still the main performance space for the Festival Theatre today, and will be the venue for BETM in 2019.  However, for the first four seasons the stage and auditorium were just covered by a large canvas tent, and a permanent building to house it wasn’t completed until 1957.

The Festival Theatre stage and auditorium, which seats over 1800 patrons

The first Stratford Festival season began on July 13, 1953 with Guthrie’s production of Richard III.  Over the years the Festival has expanded hugely from these early days and has attracted some of the world’s most celebrated actors to perform there.  Around a dozen productions are presented each year across four stages – the Festival Theatre, the Avon Theatre, the Tom Patterson Theatre, and the Studio Theatre.  The Festival also does not limit itself to just performing Shakespeare plays anymore, although every year a selection of Shakespeare plays are still performed.

For the 2019 season, the Stratford Festival will produce a total of 12 productions.  Aside from BETM, the other productions include another musical (Little Shop of Horrors), three Shakespeare plays (Othello, Henry VIII and The Merry Wives of Windsor), and a series of plays including Private Lives and The Crucible.

The Stratford Festival production of BETM will be directed and choreographed by Donna Feore, who has previously directed numerous other musicals at the Festival.  The cast is a mixture of actors who have previously performed at the Festival and those who will be doing so for the first time.  Many of the children in the cast fall into the latter category, including Nolen Dubuc, who will be taking on the lead role of Billy.

Full cast rehearsals began on the first day of February.  The following video gives us a sneak peek into the rehearsal room and a chance to see some of Donna Feore’s brand new choreography:

Credit: Video by Stratford Festival

Here is the official trailer for the Stratford Festival production:

Credit: Video by Stratford Festival

To learn more about Nolen Dubuc, click on the Billy Profiles button (below) to be taken to his detailed profile.
billy profiles

To see a complete listing of the rest of the Stratford Festival cast, just click on the Cast Information button.

cast info

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