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Billy Elliot


Billy Elliot
Peoria Players
May 5-6 & 11-13 at 7:30 pm, and May 7 & 14 at 2:00 pm

It’s not often that a 13-year-old boy takes on the title role in a musical, let alone one that requires the intense dancing of Billy Elliot.

But Tyler Lankston of Germantown Hills is well prepared for the job and makes his debut when Billy Elliot premieres at Peoria Players Theatre on May 5. A dancer since age 4 and a competitive dancer for the past five years, Lankston and Lankston alone is taking on this role – a role often shared by multiple young actors, as it was on Broadway.

“His incredible talent and humility breathe life into the character of Billy,” said co-director/choreographer Erica Franken, a longtime dancer and performer herself who is heading up the production with co-director/choreographer Sarah Beth Leasor, also a longtime dancer and performer.

“We are proud to bring the regional premiere of Billy Elliot to Peoria Players,” Franken said. “It is sure to blow the audience away.”

Based on the popular movie, Billy Elliot won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical when it premiered on Broadway less than a decade ago. Set in Northern England in 1984, the show tells the story of a young boy who accidentally discovers his love for ballet amongst the strife of his small mining community on strike, struggling to keep their livelihood and families intact.

“Although the characters are fictional, the history behind the story is factual,” Franken said. “We are very fortunate to have dialect coaches Jane and Paul Prest originally from Northern England who witnessed the struggles first hand. They have been an invaluable resource to bring accuracy and heart to the story.”

Another young local boy, Sam Lin, 13, plays Billy’s eccentric best friend, and Franken said their number together will “have you on your feet.”

Billy Elliot brings together a 39-person cast of seasoned performers and newcomers ranging from kids to adults. Some familiar faces are Barb Couri as Grandma, Mike Reams as Dad and Michelle Rouland as Mrs. Wilkinson.

Also worth seeing are the many upgrades to Peoria Players’ stage and backstage that will enhance the audience experience. Sutton Country Carpets donated carpet for several areas of the theater, and Franken’s husband Chris has spent countless hours at the theater making much-needed updates. He replaced the stage surface, reframed the orchestra pit and stage extension and updated the fly system, which, along with a rental from Vertigo fly company, allows for an intricate and energetic flying sequence.

“The set and use of space is impressive in its own right,” Erica Franken said.

Laura Johnson music directs this powerful score, written by Elton John.

“With the music, dance and memorable characters, Billy Elliot is definitely a must-see,” Franken said. “All of the pieces fell into place, and I think our passion for this show will come through to the audience.”


Tickets are on sale beginning Monday, April 24. Adults are $19 and youth 20 and younger are $12. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 688-4473 or on the new Peoria Players website at (add $1 convenience fee for online tickets). Please note the production is rated PG-13 for some adult language and content.

Posted on April 28, 2017


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