Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Billy the Kid

October First is coming up fast, and nobody knows it more than the three kids who will be playing the title role in the new Billy Elliot musical that begins performances on Broadway that evening. Yep, the role is so demanding, that they’ve got three kids rotating through the performances throughout the week, so that none of them will ever have to do two shows back to back. Back in the day, The Tap Dance Kid had a demanding role for an early teen as well, who was in almost every scene but he only got one performance off. Oh well, it was the early 80s.

Employing three actors for the same role is a big reason why this show is the most expensive musical in Broadway history. How expensive? It has a capitalization cost of $18 million. That might not sound like a lot compared to feature films, but chew on this: Wicked was previously the most expensive record holder at $14 million and Billy Elliot costs about three times as much as the film it was based on. By the first performance the three kids will have been in rehearsals for four months, plus two months before that just to get fit for the role. (Let me tell you from experience, singing and dancing onstage for nearly three hours takes stamina.) Once the rest of the cast arrived, they basically had to rehearse the show three times, once for each Billy. Just imagine what tech week will be like when it takes three weeks. The thought makes me shudder. And all of those Billies need keepers and tutors. Dang.

On top of that, Universal and Working Title (the show’s producers) have paid for renovations to the Imperial Theatre to meet their staging demands. Since they don’t have access to the theatre and their huge cast needs to be close together, they have rented out an entire Off-Broadway theater just for rehearsals. Plus another rehearsal space at a nearby studio! All this is fine, I personally think this show will make its money back eventually. But I do have two questions.

What happens when your teen playing the lead role goes though puberty and his voice changes?

What does an $18 million musical really mean for musicals to come?

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

You Train a zillion more (ok a few...always)to take over when it happens,theres been 15+ Billys in London over 3+ years...and that REALLY explains the cost.Besides it adds in permanent variety,though expensive.THATS why Ive seen it 39 times,thank god its closer now(Palm Springs here).

Anonymous said...

BETM opened in Sydney last November and transfers to Melbourne Australia in December. We have had two new Billy's trained up since the original four Billy's who started off the show in Sydney. Two more are in training for Melbourne.

Of course it is not just the cost of the Billy's there are the Michael's and the Debbie's plus the ten girls in each dance team and there is usually three dance teams. Thats a lot of child actors but it makes for a unique show and one that is different every performance. So far I have seen it over 60 times in Sydney