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Eleven years after he saw “Billy Elliot” in London’s West End and was inspired to stage the musical in Japan with a Japanese cast, Yoshitaka Hori, president of leading production company Horipro Corp., could finally stand smiling at a Tokyo press conference called on Dec. 18 to introduce the four boy actors selected to play the title role in the show’s runs spanning July 19-Nov. 4, 2017, at Akasaka Act Theater in Tokyo and Umeda Arts Theater in Osaka.

Based on 2000’s film of the same name, the musical — with music by Sir Elton John — ran in London from May 2005 to April 2016, winning four Olivier Awards. Among its many productions worldwide, this will be Asia’s second after Seoul’s in 2010.

Centered around a motherless boy in a grimy northern English town who skips boxing lessons to go to ballet classes, the story sees him win over family and community objections and leave for London to live his dream of becoming a top dancer.

After receiving 1,346 applicants when open casting auditions were advertised in November 2015, by this April just 450 were left for Horipro’s creative team to test further before selecting seven final contenders.

Now, after rigorous lessons since September in ballet, acrobatics, tap dancing, acting and singing, those four boys aged 10 to 14 have at last been chosen to wear coveted “Billy” T-shirts … and go on to live their dreams, too.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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