Thursday, March 4, 2010

Billy Elliot Korea - Cast Selected - Opens August


Many people were quite skeptical last year when they heard about plans to launch a local production of "Billy Elliot," as Korea does not have much of a history of training children actors for commercial musicals.

Finding gifted young actors was expected to be challenging especially in light of the musical's leading role Billy requiring a variety of talents from vocals to ballet and tap-dancing.

"The first thing I was asked by Working Title, the production company for the original show, (when trying to acquire a license for the show) was whether we have a lot of young ballet boys in Korea. But I believed in the potential of Korean boys and now can proudly say that I've discovered a great cast," said Moon Mi-ho, the CEO of Magistella Inc., the Korean production company for "Billy Elliot," at a press conference in downtown Seoul, Tuesday.

Magistella launched a nationwide open audition to search for the best Billies, Moon said.

About 800 came in for an audition in the year-long search that started last February. To quality for the audition, one had to be a Korean boy between the ages of 9 and 12, less than 150 centimeters tall, and one who has not broken his voice.

After the third round, the company started running the "Billy School" in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul, where the boys were trained in singing and dancing by professional trainers.

Most of the show's production costs, estimated at 13.5 billion won ($11.7 million) went to operating the Billy School, Moon said.

"We trained the boys in diverse dances like ballet, tap-dancing, acrobatics, hip-hop and contemporary dance, on top of acting and vocals, to offer them entertaining activities while trying to see their potentials," she said.

The final audition was held in January with four boys selected.

They are 12-year-old Kim Se-yong who won the Youth America Grand Prix 2009 in ballet; 12-year-old Lee Ji-myeong, who has appeared in a local production of "Lion King" and "Last Empress"; 10-year-old Im Sun-woo who has a background in ballet; and 11-year-old Jung Jin-ho who was featured as a tap-dance prodigy on SBS talent show "Star King."

The young actors said they would practice hard, intending to outperform the Billies of the United Kingdom and Australia.

A stage adaptation of the same-titled film "Billy Elliot" (2000), the musical premiered in 2005 in the United Kingdom and won four Laurence Olivier Awards in 2006.

Its songs were composed by Sir Elton John while the lyrics were written by Lee Hall, who also scripted the film.

Following its U.K. run, the musical moved to Australia and the United States, gaining success there as well.

Korea is the first country to stage the show in Asia.

For details on the show, call (02) 3446-9630 or go to www.musicalbillyelliot.co.kr

- Korea Herald

Billy Elliot: The Musical will begin performances in Seoul, South Korea this August, according to published reports. The musical will be performed in Korean and feature a South Korean cast, including Lee Ji-myeong, Jung Jin-ho, Im Sun-woo and Kim Se-yong, who will alternate the title role.

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