From Boxing Gloves to Ballet Shoes

by Aug 2, 2015

Originally published August 2
By Rick Rogers, The OKLAHOMAN

Original article here http://newsok.com/from-boxing-gloves-to-ballet-shoes-oklahoma-citys-lyric-theatre-will-stage-billy-elliott/article/5437406/?page=2

Twelve-year-old Brooks Landegger probably has more stage experience than most actors twice his age. The New York resident has appeared in numerous productions at the New York City Ballet (“The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake”) and the Metropolitan Opera (“Macbeth,” “Otello”).

This week, he’ll be adding another role to an already impressive resume, that of the title character in Lyric Theatre’s production of “Billy Elliot.” It’s the story of a young boy who trades boxing gloves for ballet shoes.

Set against the backdrop of the 1984-85 miners’ strike in County Durham, England, “Billy Elliot” is a celebration of the human spirit as seen through the eyes of Billy, a boy who discovers a passion for dancing.

Directed by Ashley Wells and choreographed by Amy Reynolds-Reed, “Billy Elliot” also features Christopher Bloch as Billy’s dad, Tim Rogan as his brother Tony, Brenda Williams as his grandmother and Lyn Cramer as his dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson.

Brooks Landegger and Brenda Williams. Photo by KO Rinearson.

Landegger has been studying dance at the School of American Ballet since he was 5. He’s devoted an equal number of years to tap and acting at Shuffles Broadway, Tap and Musical Theater School. But this will mark his musical theater debut.

“I saw the Broadway production of ‘Billy Elliot’ 13 times and then saw it twice on tour,” Landegger said. “So I feel like I know it. I’ve played the Prince in productions of ‘The Nutcracker,’ but that’s a lot of walking around elegantly. This is hard-core dancing.

“Since this is my first musical, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But the second I put myself in Billy’s shoes, it’s like I’ve become a new person. I turn Brooks off and Billy on. It’s like a light switch.”

‘Roles that are really right’

Billy discovers his love for dance when he reluctantly joins a class taught by Mrs. Wilkinson. Although Billy is initially frustrated by his teacher’s demands, the two develop a strong bond based on mutual respect.

“Mrs. Wilkinson is a miserable woman who’s stuck in a dead-end marriage,” Cramer said of her character. “When Billy becomes the highlight of her life, she’s doubly frustrated because he isn’t her own child.

“She always keeps her guard up because she doesn’t want to acknowledge how much she loves Billy. The status quo is safe so she keeps herself protected. That makes her a complicated character.”

“Billy Elliot” marks Cramer’s return to the Lyric stage after a seven-year absence. She last appeared as Becky Two Shoes in the company’s 2008 production of “Urinetown.” Better known as a director and choreographer, Cramer has been a member of the musical theater faculty at the University of Oklahoma since 2001.

“I started working on this role in January because the preparation for me is so in depth since I’m not a regular performer anymore,” Cramer said. “You and your body and your voice have to agree on certain parameters. I love it but there is a sacrifice in doing it. So I wait for a Becky Two Shoes or a Mrs. Wilkinson, roles that are really right for me.”

“Billy Elliot,” which won four Olivier Awards in London and 10 Tony Awards on Broadway, features music by Elton John, with book and lyrics by Lee Hall. In both London and New York, the trio of boys who alternated in the role of Billy won the top acting awards.

“I’m excited to do this and I’m determined to do it well,” Landegger said. “It tells people who watch it to never give up. If you have perseverance and determination, you can do whatever you want and follow your dreams.”

 

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