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Cast: First London Billy Elliot, Shaw Stays in Chicago

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The West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical welcomed its 16th Billy last night (23 June 2008) and the first-ever Londoner to step into those famous ballet shoes. Thirteen-year-old Fox Jackson-Keen (pictured), from Hornsey, north London, made his West End debut in the multi award-winning musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

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.

The other current Billys are: Layton Williams (14, from Manchester), Hogan Fulton (13, from California) and Joshua Fedrick (14, from Cornwall). The cast also features: Jackie Clune (as Mrs Wilkinson), Phil Whitchurch (Dad), Ann Emery (Grandma), Chris Lennon (Tony) and Alex Delamere (Mr Braithwaite).

Billy Elliot has played to more than one million people since it had its world premiere in May 2005 at the Victoria Palace, where its now booking through to 11 April 2009. The musical – which scooped Best Musical prizes in the Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Whatsonstage.com Awards in the UK - opened in Australia last year and, in November, will make its Broadway premiere. The stage production reunites the creative team behind the 2000 film: director Stephen Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Lee Hall.

At the Cambridge Theatre, Suzanne Shaw has extended her contract in Chicago by a further four weeks. Shaw, winner of this year’s ITV competition Dancing on Ice, became the 23rd actress to play murderess Roxie Hart in the West End production of the Kander and Ebb musical, when she joined the company for a six-week stint on 2 July (See 1st Night Photos, 3 Jun 2008). She’ll now continue until 9 August.

After rising to fame through ITV competition Popstars, Shaw went on to have several number one singles with Hear’Say, the band formed by the show’s winners. Her subsequent stage musical credits have included Summer Holiday and, in the West End, The Rocky Horror Show and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The current cast also features Anna Jane Casey (as Velma Kelly), Terence Maynard (Billy Flynn), Victor McGuire (Amos Hart). From 14 July, Gina Murray takes over the role of prison matron Mama Morton from Sue Kelvin.

This West End revival of Chicago opened at the Cambridge Theatre (where the musical’s original London production ran for 603 performances from April 1979) on 28 April 2006, after eight-and-a-half years at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. Amongst its accolades are the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and the Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.

Kander and Ebb’s 1975 musical is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The current stage revival, which transferred from Broadway, is directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse.

- by Terri Paddock


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