Seventeen years since the hit film was shot in the area and after eleven years on the West End stage, Billy Elliot has come home.
Tomorrow night the first UK tour of the musical version of the hit film makes its North East debut at Sunderland Empire.
It’s the closest big theatre to Easington Colliery, which inspired the film about the son of a coal miner who dances his way to a new life amidst the backdrop of the Miners’ Strike.
Sunderland is only the second date on the new tour and will host the show for the next four weeks.
Ben Phillips, Sunderland Empire general manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome the smash-hit production of Billy Elliot the Musical to Sunderland as part of its first ever UK and Ireland tour.
“Billy Elliot the Musical has been captivating audiences in the West End for over 10 years and we are honoured to bring Billy home for the momentous North East debut.”
The UK and Ireland tour stars four actors who share the title role: Adam Abbou, 12, Matthew Lyons, 11, Haydn May, 11 and Lewis Smallman, 12.
It will also see Washington actor Elliot Stiff, nine, appear on his home city stage when he shares the role of Billy’s best friend Michael.
Joining them on stage is Annette McLaughlin as Mrs Wilkinson, Martin Walsh as Dad, Scott Garnham as Tony and Andrea Miller as Grandma.
The musical is brought to life by the same award-winning creative team behind the film, which was shot in and around Easington Colliery, including writer Lee Hall, director Stephen Daldry and choreographer Peter Darling. They were joined by Elton John who composed the show’s score.
Martin Walsh, who plays the role of Billy’s dad, says the cast feel like they’re bringing Billy home.
The actor said: “We feel like we’re bringing Billy home, or as close to home as he’s ever going to get. And we can’t wait for the audience reaction to the show, to feel their passion and buzz.
“I was born in the ’70s, but I grew up in the ’80s. I was one of Thatcher’s children, I remember the misery, and we really try to portray that reality on stage.”
•Billy Elliot is at Sunderland Empire from April 6-30. There are tickets remaining with the best availability Monday to Thursdays. They are available in person at the Box Office, on Tel. 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.