Theatre Calgary presents a regional production of Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM) at the Max Bell Theatre in Calgary, Alberta from April 9 to May 12, 2019.
Theatre Calgary came about during the 1960s grassroots movement for local professional theatre, when it was formed by the coming together of two of Calgary’s most prominent amateur theatre groups — Workshop 14 and the Musicians’ and Actors’ Club. This new group was known as MAC 14 when it was first created in 1966. Then in 1968 it became Theatre Calgary, the city’s first fully professional theatre company.
The first home for the company was the Betty Mitchell Theatre at the Allied Arts Centre (a converted tractor showroom). Whilst there Theatre Calgary performed a mixture of classic and new plays, including premieres by Canadian writers including John Murrell, W.O. Mitchell, and Sharon Pollock. Then in 1985 the company relocated and become the resident company for the Max Bell Theatre in the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts (now known as Arts Commons), where Theatre Calgary has continued to perform until this day. In their new space they began performing large-scale productions of classics, period pieces, and musicals.
BETM concludes the 2018/19 season at Theatre Calgary, which has included three world premieres — Honour Beat, Mary and Max, Boom X — and also productions of The Scarlet Letter and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Over the 2018 Christmas season A Christmas Carol was performed at Theatre Calgary for the 32nd consecutive year.
Stafford Arima, the director of BETM at Theatre Calgary, knew that finding an actor to play Billy was going to be a challenge. “It’s not just a triple threat; we’re looking at a quadruple threat,” he said. Fifteen young boys turned out to audition for the role and in the end Arima chose two of them to share the role. The talented duo are 10-year-old Dex Drewitz and 14-year-old Rhett Udsen. Although the two are distinctly different in both age and height, Arima says that what they share is the ability to capture “the essence of Billy Elliot”, saying that “what they both brought in the audition was a very unique and individual understanding of what it means to be a young person with a dream”.
The following video shows Dex and Rhett talking about what it is like to play Billy:
Credit: Video by Global News
Choreographing the production is Calgary’s most famous male ballet dancer, Yukichi Hattori, who spent ten years as a principal dancer with the Alberta Ballet. Alongside choreographing the show, he has also been training the two Billys. For four months prior to company rehearsals starting, Hattori has been meeting with the Billys to help them strengthen their bodies for the physical demands of the show. Talking about this experience Hattori said, “They are very committed and susceptible to everything I throw at them. The drive and discipline definitely is there. They are a pleasure to work with.”
To see a complete listing of the rest of the Theatre Calgary cast, just click on the Cast Information button.
Note: Featured pic illustration by Andrea Ucini