Millie lands leading role in Billy Elliot musical

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SHE may be only 10 years old, but Sunderland schoolgirl Millie Thornton is already a West End star.

After wowing producers, Mille now juggles lessons at Hill View Junior School with playing one of the main roles in Billy Elliot the Musical.

She whizzes between her Grangetown home and London to step into the shoes of Debbie Wilkinson, the young girl who helps to inspire Billy to dance.

Millie joined the cast this week after finding out she had landed the dream role in February.

“I took part in the Billy Youth Theatre project in Sunderland and Newcastle and can’t believe how lucky I am to now be playing Debbie in the West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical,” she said.

The talented youngster is no stranger to the stage after she shone in White Christmas during its festive run at Sunderland Empire in 2008.

She has also appeared in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Empire and The King and I at Newcastle Theatre Royal after honing her skills at Stagecoach, based at Sunderland High School, and the Stacey Penman School of Dance in Barnes.

Mum Michelle, 38, a personal secretary at Sunderland Royal Hospital, says she couldn’t be more proud.

“Since White Christmas, she has never stopped,” explained the mum-of-one.

“She really got the bug for being on stage and has been in show after show ever since. But we never thought we’d see her on the West End stage at this age.”

Michelle, who is married to Che, added: “We took her along to the Billy auditions just for the experience in 2011 but they said she was too small and should come back the following year. We went back in January and were just flabbergasted when we found out, two weeks later, that she had the role.”

Millie shares the role with two other girls and they all take turns to appear in shows at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

It means Millie will have to regularly travel up and down the country, but a tutor provides school lessons when she is in London.

“Monday night was her first appearance,” said Michelle.

“She was nervous, but excitement soon took over. She has been in rehearsals for weeks and she just wanted to get out there.

“At the minute she has a six-month contract but who knows after that. The girl Millie has taken over from was in the show for three years.

“It does mean she is away from home sometimes but we sat down with her and explained that to her before she decided if she wanted the role.”

The West End has experienced a wave of Wearside talent in recent months.

Millfield actor Ben Forster is in the midst of rehearsals for a tour of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar after wowing millions to win reality show Superstar.

Fellow former Thornhill School pupil Michael Pickering, from Barnes, has also been called into the fold to perform in the Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour.

Gary Watson, from Plains Farm, has landed many top roles on the West End stage including Matilda the Musical, Les Miserables and Cats.

Twitter: @sunechokaty