As previously tipped (See The Goss, 13 Nov 2006), The X Factor judges Sharon Osbourne, Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh paid a visit to last night’s gala performance of Billy Elliot at the West End’s Victoria Palace. They had cameos as the panel of judges Billy faces at his audition for the Royal Ballet School in the one-off performance for which Olivier Award-winning title role originator Liam Mower, who left the show in September (See Last Night Photos, 2 Oct 2006), returned for one night only (See News, 31 Oct 2006).

The charity gala, held in aid of the Easington Branch of the children’s charity The Place2Be, was also attended by the multi award-winning show’s composer Elton John, who – along with The X Factor judges – donned tutus and joined the cast on stage for the curtain call. The performance also celebrated the one millionth patron through the doors at the Victoria Palace. David Llewellyn, his wife Julie, their daughter Jade (15) and son Bryce (11), travelled from Warrington to see the show. As well as meeting Sir Elton and Liam, they were congratulated by Osbourne, Cowell and Walsh and received Billy Elliot goodie bags.

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Since receiving its world premiere on 12 May 2005 (following previews from 31 March), Billy Elliot has been playing to full houses at the Victoria Palace where it has broken box office records. The musical is based on the 2000 film, which was nominated for three Oscars and 13 Bafta awards. Most of the film was shot in Easington Village where the terraced streets doubled as mining community at the time of the 1984 miners’ strike.

The stage production reunites the creative team behind the film, including director Stephen Daldry, who arranged a special performance for the gala, 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.

Founded in 1994, The Place2Be gives children in primary schools a place where they can express their feelings through talking, creative work and play. The Place2Be delivers a range of services directly to children, parents and teachers in primary schools, from ex-mining communities. In addition they offer training for volunteers, staff and adults working with children. The Place2Be provides emotional support and is accessible to all children in schools where it operates.

- by Terri Paddock