‘Billy Elliot’ takes to the Orcas Center stage

The upcoming production of “Billy Elliot” features Orcas Island’s own young dance star Aristotle Luna.

“I think it’s a beautiful story,” said Director Robert Hall. “It’s about a young person in an oppressive family who finds his way out. That appeals to a lot of kids these days. It’s a universal theme – especially if you are in the arts.”

“Billy Elliot, The Musical” is based on the 2000 film about a boy who becomes a professional ballet dancer in North East England during the mid-1980s coal miners’ strike. The music is by Elton John, and the book and lyrics are by Lee Hall, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. The production premiered in the West End in 2005 and was nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards. In New York, it won 10 Tony Awards.

The play will run March 15-18 and 22-25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on Orcas Center’s main stage. Tickets are $19 and $15 for students at www.orcascenter.org, and there are $5 subsidized tickets at the box office. Opening night preview tickets are $15 and $11.

The Matia Dinner Series, Doe Bay Wine Company and Orcas Events are presenting a special pre-show dinner on March 16 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $75. Enjoy a multi-course dinner menu highlighting local and seasonal products along with carefully curated wine selections in the Orcas Center’s Madrona Room. Doe Bay Wine Company has curated a collection of memorable wines to be paired with each course. The pairing is $35.

The play is choreographed by Anthony The Dancer and Tiffany Loney, who also plays the adult lead role of dance teacher Sandra Wilkinson. They are joined by musical director Martin Lund, who is leading a nine-piece band.

Hall was researching possible new productions for Orcas Center, and when he came across “Billy Elliot” he knew it was perfect for Luna.

“And I knew we could do it because we have Anthony and Tiffany,” he said. “Ever since that first meeting, it has rolled along like a big machine. It’s taken on a life of its own. It’s been an absolute pleasure.”

Hall calls Luna a “sharp and talented kid” who has worked hard to tackle singing and acting, neither of which he has done before.

“This has been an excellent experience,” said Luna. “I have really enjoyed getting to work with such amazing choreographers, directors, musicians and the rocking cast. I am very grateful for this opportunity to work with so many cool and interesting people.”

Loney choreographed a scene with the young ballet dancers, and Anthony oversaw all the rest, which includes ballet, tap and jazz numbers. The entire cast is part of the dance scenes, and Anthony says he built the numbers around them.

“There is a little bit of everything,” he said. “I didn’t love the music initially, but it grew on me. And the dancers grew with it too. There are different skill levels, but collectively they look fantastic. It’s going to be a phenomenal production.”

Anthony, who has worked with Luna as his private dance instructor for the past two years, began rehearsing with him in August. The remainder of the cast began dance practice in October.

Anthony has worked with Luna in the Island Inspiration All-Star Dance Collective and says he is thrilled to be sharing him with the greater community.

“Aristotle is extremely talented. We’re still just scratching the surface,” he said.

The show is family-friendly and features a cast of nearly 60 people who span a huge age range. Kelly Toombs is playing Billy Elliot’s dad, Jackie; Garth Simpson is his brother Tony; Trevor Wareham plays his best friend Michael; Brenda Loney is his grandmother; JP Bone plays his boxing coach; and Don Yerly is the pianist Mr. Braithwaite.

“It’s such a dance-centric play that it spoke to me,” said Loney. “And we wanted to have this for Aristotle at an age where he can do it but it’s also a stretch for him. For me, that’s the heart of it: giving a kid this opportunity.”