Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beck Center does national search for their Billy

The multi-award winning Billy Elliot The Musical tells the historically tale of a community in strife caused by a miners’ strike in County Durham, in North Eastern England, balanced against the fictional tale of a lad named Billy. 

The strike, took place in 1984-85 as part of the Margaret Thatcher-led government’s attempt to bust the coal union.  Billy is a tween who finds a love for dancing and is thrust into a competition to get into the Royal Ballet School of London.

The strikers are rough, blunt speaking, action-oriented men.  Billy does not fit into their mold of what a boy should be.  The community expects him to be a boxer, not a ballet dancer.

When artistic director Scott Spence, choreographer Martin CĂ©spedes, and musical director Larry Goodpaster, decided to stage Billy Elliot The Musical as Beck Center’s highlight summer musical, they knew they were undertaking a major series of high hurdles.

The casting required two boys, Billy and his friend Michael, to be not only acceptable dancers, but proficient ones, youth who can do ballet, tap and modern dance.  Billy must also be an exceptional actor and singer.  The casting must also include an older Billy who has grown into a star ballet dancer and a cast who can produce the difficult North Eastern English speech sound.  And, the score for the musical, which is by Elton John, requires a large-sized pit orchestra.

Since no local boys could reach the performance levels needed for the roles of Billy and Michael, a national search was undertaken.  From the many recommendations by agents and submission of video tapes and interviews, Houston native, 12 year-old Seth Judice (Billy), and 13 year-old Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada’s Maurice Kimball (Michael) were selected.

An interview with Seth and his mother (Robin) revealed that the youngster started dance lessons at the ripe-old age of 17-months.  His mother, who teaches dance, and his aunt, who is also a dance instructor and runs a performance studio, were his first teachers. 

Seth stated, “I really liked dancing.  I don’t like sports, don’t like to get dirty.  Dancing was the cleanest thing I could do!” 

He not only wanted to do it, but showed early high levels of proficiency, winning Houston’s Petite Mr. Star Quest, a performance competition.  He followed that by winning the Junior level competition.  (To view his performances go to You Tube and search for:  Fabulous Feet - Seth Judice - Petite Mr. StarQuest, Select Top Score Petite Solo - Houston, TX 2012 and Wanna Be Like You - Seth Judice - Junior Mr. StarQuest - Houston, TX 2014).

Because of his performance and lesson schedules, being the subject of bullying, and having Irlen Syndrome, a perceptual disorder which centers on the brain’s ability to process visual information (some may think of it as dyslexia), Seth is home schooled by his mother.  He reads with special glasses, but generally he learns his lines by oral drill with his mother reading him his lines.  Fortunately, his high functioning intelligence allows him to quickly grasp both the lines and dance routines.

Does this dynamic young man miss not being a “regular” kid due to his time-consuming regime of ballet, tap, contemporary dance, acrobatics and tumbling lessons and not being in the social environment of a traditional school?  “No,” states Seth, “doing theatre makes me realize how much I don’t want to be a regular kid.”  He does have cyber friends and has social contacts with dance and theater acquaintances.  Fortunately, the parents of the only child agree with his assessment.

He recognizes the financial commitment his parents have made for him, as well as the time his mother and father spend to support his dreams.  (His mother accompanied him to Cleveland, transports him and is present at all rehearsals.)

Seth was in a Memphis production of Billy Elliot, playing the part of Michael.  He was also in the national tour of A Christmas Story, The Musical, portraying Grover Dill, bully Skut Farkas’s side-kick. 

Eddie Rabon, a bi-coastal agent with Take 3 Talent’s Theatrical Department signed Seth as his client based on a showcase in which the youngster appeared.

Seth, who is not yet a member of Equity, said he is “having a lot of fun” working at Beck.  He was especially enamored with going onto the set for the first time.  The downsides?  “Not many, other than I’m on stage almost the entire time so it’s difficult to be able to drink water and stay hydrated.”

He strongly identifies with the “Billy” of the play, as “we both really want what we do and do what we want.  My philosophy is, if we want to do it, we will do it!”

In Cleveland, where he is living in a house provided by Beck for the duration of the Billy Elliot run, which he shares with his mother, he “goes to rehearsals, works out, does ballet, plays video games, and sleeps.”  He indicated that after the show opens, he’ll have time to explore the city.  He is especially looking forward to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his father, when his dad comes to town to see the show.  He also has been with Maurice a lot, and has gone to the movies with him.

Though he’s not into sports, he did get caught up in the Cavalier’s championship excitement, “thanks to members of the cast.”

And how does his mother, Robin, view her son’s quest for stardom?  As a dance instructor who performed professionally and was a Houston Texan cheerleader, she understands Seth’s drive, and is happy that she and her husband can support him. 

What advice would she give the parents of other kids who see “entertainment stars in their  eyes?” She sensitively stated, “Let them pursue their dreams.  Let them do it.  Do what you can to help them grow, as people and performers.  Give them the necessary tools.” 

You can see Seth, Maurice and the rest of the Billy Elliot The Musical cast from July 7 through August 14 at Beck Center.  For tickets call 216-521-2540 or go on line to