Stage Door News

Stratford: The musical “Billy Elliot” begins previews at the Stratford Festival today

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Donna Feore’s gritty new take on Billy Elliot the Musical, the Tony Award-winning blockbuster musical from Lee Hall and Elton John, kicks off the Festival’s 67th season with its first preview today. The production officially opens on Tuesday, May 28, at the Festival Theatre.

Billy Elliot is the most contemporary musical ever presented on the Festival’s thrust stage. At its helm is Canada’s top director-choreographer Donna Feore, celebrating a remarkable 25 seasons at Stratford this year. In what has become her signature style, Feore has spectacularly reimagined Billy Elliot especially for Stratford with brand new staging and choreography, as she’s done before with enormous success in a string of back-to-back hits, including last season’s record-breaking The Rocky Horror Show, as well as The Music Man, Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, The Sound of Music, Crazy for You and Fiddler on the Roof.

“This magical Festival Theatre space demands that I reimagine everything about Billy Elliot the Musical from the ground up,” says Feore. 

“Dance has always been a cornerstone in my life,” she says. “It’s about to become one in Billy Elliot’s life and in the life of his troubled town. Billy has a gift and it will shine like a diamond in the coal dust just as soon as he can figure out what it is. We talk of being moved, of moving others and expressing ourselves in movement, but what does it really mean ‘to dance’? I can say that every day I come to work as a director I’m grateful that I began my career in dance. The rigour and discipline that it demands informs everything I do. Every step tells a story, every gesture carries us forward. Add music, words and song, and there’s no limit to the stories you can tell and no more powerful way to tell them.”  

Dreams don’t come easy in the hardscrabble mining town, riven by a bitter national strike, where 11-year-old Billy lives with his bereaved family. But Billy’s discovery of his talent for dance awakens in him a passion that will transform his life and win the hearts of his whole community.

Playing the title role is Nolen Dubuc, an 11-year-old powerhouse performer with a special connection to this musical. Dubuc first saw Billy Elliot the Musical at four years old and left inspired to become a performer. Now, with a long list of awards and theatrical credits under his belt, he has made his way from B.C. to Stratford to achieve his dream of playing Billy.

He is joined by fellow powerhouse performers Dan Chameroy as Billy’s Dad and Blythe Wilson as Mrs. Wilkinson, with Marion Adler as Grandma Elliot and Steve Ross as George. 

The creative team includes Music Director Franklin Brasz, Set Designer Michael Gianfrancesco, Costume Designer Dana Osborne, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Projection Designer Jamie Nesbitt, Sound Designer Peter McBoyle and Fight Director Anita Nittoly.

Billy Elliot is the perfect encapsulation of our season’s theme of ‘breaking boundaries,’” says Artistic DirectorAntoni Cimolino. “Like Billy, we all hope for support from the people we love and the community around us. As we watch him push back against his family’s expectations to pursue his passion, I think we can all recognize such moments of risk in our own lives, which makes his story deeply moving. It’s told with a ton of heart and humour in this production, accentuated by Donna’s trademark jaw-dropping dance numbers, and the most electrifying score by the one and only Elton John. It’s an astonishing theatrical experience; one that will stay with you forever.”

The festivities continue at the Forum where, notably, Donna Feore will join The New York Times co-chief theatre critic Jesse Green to discuss the Changing Traditions in Musical Theatre (July 10). This event is part of The New York Times at Stratford, a week-long series of exciting conversations about this season’s plays and themes featuring Green, theatre editor Scott Heller and culture writer Cara Buckley.

Dream It, Be It (June 22) will examine what it takes for kids to step beyond stereotypes and find the confidence to follow their dreams. The event features scholar and educator Kathleen Gallagher, Ballet Theatre of Toledo artistic director Nigel Burgoine and Festival choreographer and dance educator Stephen Cota

You can dream it and be it in two dance workshops led by Festival artists: Ballet 101 (May 25, July 6, July 27 and August 9), and Song and Dance: Billy Elliot the Musical (June 8, July 12 and August 17).

For tickets and a full list of Forum events offered almost every day throughout the season, please visit:

Support for the Forum is generously provided by Kelly & Michael Meighen and The T.R. Meighen Family Foundation.

Billy Elliot the Musical is co-sponsored by Enbridge and RBC Royal Bank.

Production support is generously provided by the Harkins & Manning families in memory of Jim & Susan Harkins and by Riki Turofsky & Charles Petersen.

 Support for the 2019 season of the Festival Theatre is generously provided by Daniel Bernstein and Claire Foerster.



Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall
Music by Elton John
Originally directed by Stephen Daldry
April 16 – November 3; opens Tuesday, May 28

Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street, Stratford, Ontario

Tickets $23.50 to $201

Box office: 1-800-567-1600

Orchestrations by Martin Koch; Executive Producers (Original Production) Angela Morrison, David Furnish; Producers (Original Production) Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn, Sally Greene; originally presented in London by Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Working Title Films and Old Vic Productions in association with Tiger Aspect. Based on the Universal Pictures/Studio Canal Film.

The Stratford Festival’s 2019 season runs until November 3, featuring Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry VIII, Billy Elliot the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, Private Lives, The Neverending Story, Mother’s Daughter,Nathan the Wise, The Front Page, The Crucible and Birds of a Kind. 

Photo: Nolen Dubuc as Billy Elliot. © 2018 David Cooper.