Thursday, October 30, 2008

Elton Talks About Billy Elliot

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He's a 61-year-old superstar and a Knight of the Realm, with multiple Grammy awards and sales of more than 250 million records to his name.

But all it took was one moment in the 2000 independent movie "Billy Elliot" to reduce the pop music's "Rocket Man" to tears.

"The thing that really got to me emotionally was at the end when Billy comes on and dances as an adult," he told CBS News anchor Katie Couric. "And his father's in the balcony watching him come on and do Swan Lake."

The concept of a father's acceptance of his son's artistic aspirations struck a chord with Sir Elton John - who, growing up, yearned for the approval of his domineering dad.

"I grew up in the '50s, Katie. And rock 'n roll happened. That's what I wanted to do. And my father never really wanted me to do that," John said.

John said his father imagined his son working at "a bank … or join the Air Force like he did. And when I did become, you know, really successful, he never ever came and saw me. So I never had that moment of approval."

That regret inspired John to write "Billy Elliot: The Musical."

And the title role of the would-be boxer turned ballet dancer is so physically demanding it requires not one, not two, but three different boys to rotate in and out of performances.

"You have to find at least three Billys and rehearse them separately 'cause they all sing in different keys. They all dance differently. So it's a Groundhog's Day nightmare," John explained. "And you've got to have these kids for a certain amount of time every week."

But as Couric discovered chatting with 13-year-old Trent Kowalik and 14-year-olds David Alvarez and Kiril Kulish, there's no struggle to steal the spotlight.

The three stars said they don't watch the competition.

Aren't they curious about what the other guys are doing?

"Well, I just try to focus - to compete with myself, to do better than I did last night," Kulish said.

"Yeah, I just try to be the best I can be, and hopefully the audience likes it," Alvarez said.

Trent added: "And we're all friends anyway."

"Yeah, we're really supportive of each other," Kulish said.

Sounds like the most nervous performer in the room on opening night will be Sir Elton John.

"If I'm doing a concert for myself, I know what's going to happen; I know what I'm playing. If I'm sitting there and a piece of scenery breaks, I'm apoplectic," he said. "There's nothing you can do. So yes I will be extremely nervous."

Hopefully, they just break a leg.

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