For the first birthday celebrations of Billy Elliot at the West End’s Victoria Palace on Friday night (12 May 2006), Elton John joined the three boys who originated the title role on stage – James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower, who collectively won this year’s Best Actor in a Musical Olivier Award for their efforts – on stage at the curtain call after a moving, specially staged performance in which all three shared the role, appearing in alternating scenes.

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The pop singer-turned-musical composer led the audience – of friends, family, industry guests and members of the musical’s fan club – in singing “Happy Birthday” before praising the “three incredible boys who have lived this dream for the past year”. The boys then performed an encore of the show’s number “Expressing Yourself” with the rest of the company and John, all donning white tutus.

Offstage afterwards, John joined the boys, director Stephen Daldry, book writer and lyricist Lee Hall (who was inspired to write the story based on his own experiences growing up in Newcastle) and other members of the company to slice into a giant Billy Elliot birthday cake and toast the show’s success.

While 13-year-old Mower continues in the production, now alternating nights with a fresh crop of younger Billys, Lomas and Maguire returned for the special birthday performance (rehearsed for three weeks) having left the company before Christmas.

The trio were the youngest-ever recipients of an Olivier and also collectively won the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Award for London Newcomer of the Year. Amongst the show’s many other accolades are the sweep of the UK’s Best Musical/New Musical trophies at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circles, Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Awards.

Since its opening, Billy Elliot has grossed over £30 million and been seen by more than 650,000 people. The stage production reunites the creative team behind the award-winning 2000 film of the same name: director Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Hall. It's designed by Ian MacNeil, with costumes by Nicky Gillibrand and musical supervision by Martin Koch.

- by Terri Paddock