Liam Mower bid an emotional farewell this weekend to Billy Elliot, the hit musical that made him a multi award-winning child star. Cast when he was 11, the now 14-year-old Mower was the last one remaining of the three young actors who created the title role when the screen-to-stage musical premiered at the West End’s Victoria Palace in May 2005. In order to meet the demand of those who wanted to see ‘the original Billy’ one last time, Mower added three extra performances to his schedule over the past fortnight (See News, 7 Sep 2006).

At the curtain call of his final show on Saturday night (30 September 2006), Mower was joined on stage by the other two original Billys – George Maguire and James Lomas, who had to leave the musical last year when, like Mower now, their voices broke – as well as current cast members. In a tearful goodbye, Mower, who had always wanted a dog, was presented with a leaving gift of a black Labrador puppy named Billy. He now returns to his home town of Hull to begin studying for his GCSEs.

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For Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer was on hand at the theatre for the curtain call and at the Mint Leaf restaurant for the post-show party attended by Mower and other present and past cast members, including Tim Healy, Ann Emery and Haydn Gwynne.

Set against the North-eastern mining strikes of the 1980s, the musical recounts the tale of a motherless boy whose father wants him to learn to box but who instead discovers a love for ballet that leads him from secret lessons to a place at the Royal Ballet School.

Mower was the youngest-ever recipient of an Olivier when he, Lomas and Maguire jointly won this year’s Best Actor in a Musical Award. The trio also 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.

As well as performing in front of the HM Queen at the Victoria Palace, Mower was invited to perform at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles as part of his involvement with the Royal Ballet School. Earlier this year, he performed in New York at the prestigious Anglo Mania Ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where was seen by a star-studded audience including Drew Barrymore, P. Diddy, Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker. In May 2006, Mower, Lomas and Maguire were reunited for a special one-off performance of Billy Elliot, in which they alternated scenes, celebrating the show’s first birthday (See News, 27 Mar 2006).

Commenting on his departure, Mower said: “Nothing could have prepared me for the experience I have had playing Billy Elliot – it’s hard work but great fun! Everyone I have met from my first day of rehearsals and through my final weeks has been so supportive, from the cast and crew to the people who have been looking after me in London. I will miss them all loads.”

The stage production reunited the creative team behind the 2000 British film hit: director Stephen 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.

Stephen Daldry added: “Liam is a unique talent and we have all been blessed with the opportunity to see him flourish in Billy Elliot over the past 18 months. Rarely does one ever come across a performer with so many skills and talents, particularly when matched by Liam's determination and good humour.”

The current stars of Billy Elliot are Colin Bates, Leon Cooke, Matthew Koon and Travis Yates alternating in the title role, alongside Sally Dexter (Mrs Wilkinson), Philip Whitchurch (Dad), Chris Lennon (Tony), Ann Emery (Grandma), Sara Poyzer (Billy’s Mum), Paul Broughton (George), Alex Delamere (Mr Braithwaite) and Isaac James (Older Billy).

- by Terri Paddock