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28 October 2014

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You are in: Devon > Entertainment > Entertainment news and features > Devon's Billy Elliot

Oliver Taylor rehearsing

Oliver Taylor rehearsing

Devon's Billy Elliot

A Devon teenager has taken on the physically demanding lead role in the West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical. Oliver Taylor now has his sights set on becoming a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet Company.

You've solved the problem like Maria and seen Joseph's dream come true, but what do you know about Billy Elliot the Musical?

We've gone behind the scenes of the London stage production to meet the Devon boy who is now playing Billy Elliot in the West End.

Thirteen-year-old Oliver Taylor from Paignton shot to fame after winning the 2007 Fonteyn Nureyev Young Dancers Competition, run by the Royal Academy of Dance.

Oliver shares the lead role with three other boys and usually performs two shows every week.

A scene from the West End show

A scene from the West End show

The part is physically very demanding for someone so young, with the character of Billy on stage for 99 percent of the time during the 90 minute show.

As well singing and acting, the boys who play Billy must be able to dance ballet, tap, jazz and modern styles and perform acrobatics.

"You need a certain level if physical ability, it's very demanding," conceded Oliver.

"If you ever ask a boy to try out ballet they'll probably put their hands on their head, twiddle around and pretend they're doing a tu tu - but it's not like that.

"To be a male ballet dancer you have to be extremely athletic - they are probably stronger than footballers. So if you wanted to get fit and muscly, I think I'd advise you to be a ballet dancer."

Oliver has been dancing since he was two-years-old, but took it up almost by accident after his sister's dance teacher spotted him waiting in the wings during a class.

Winning the Royal Academy of Dance competition kick started his career, but initially has wasn't sure about auditioning for such a big role.

"First of all I thought maybe I wouldn't audition because I knew about the commitment and being away from home," explained Oliver.

"But I said to mum that I might like to try it out and even if I didn't get through it, it would be an interesting experience.

Oliver Taylor

Oliver Taylor at the Fonteyn Nureyev competition

"I can't remember exactly how many auditions I did, it's all a bit blurry."

Oliver began training for the part of Billy in January 2007, but it wasn't until June that he made his debut on the stage at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

"It was around September when I heard that I'd got in. I started training in January when I joined prep school - which is conditioning and strengthening , then I started having singing and dancing lessons and learning the show.

"My first night was on 18 June. I was pretty petrified coming up to it. I've done stage work before, but it wasn't anything like this.

"I was very nervous, there were so many people out there who had paid. But by the time I got to the second or third scene, I had sort of warmed up to it.

"The audience were really positive and it felt like they were on my side. They didn't really notice if you went wrong and they cheered so much it was a wonderful feeling.

"I really loved it and I couldn't wait to do the next show.

"Most of my friends are really like wow, I can't wait to come and see you and everything. My family are pretty much the same. I'd say they are proud."

Having succeeded on the West End stage, Oliver now has is sights on becoming a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet Company.

Meanwhile his personal highlight since becoming Billy Elliot is a face-to-face meeting with the legendary singer Barbara Streisand.

"We were informed that Barbara Streisand was watching the show, I couldn't believe it because I had seen her in 'Meet the Parents'. I thought I must do a really good performance, unfortunately I dropped my chair.

"Afterwards her tour crew invited me to her concert as a surprise for her. We watched the show and then they called me back to her dressing room.

"It was amazing, she's such a nice person. She asked me about the show and told me about similar things she'd done. Then she gave me her autograph which was really nice."

last updated: 09/08/07

You are in: Devon > Entertainment > Entertainment news and features > Devon's Billy Elliot

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