Arts & culture

Showcasing local talent, musical spectacular 'Billy Elliot' hits The Star Gold Coast

Three young actors playing Billy Elliot on the Gold Coast do a ballet pose wearing a tutu over their regular clothes with boxing gloves around their necks

July 7, 2023

Much as the beloved movie on which it is based, Billy Elliot The Musical has bought many a tear to the eye of theatre-going audiences worldwide. Now it’s the Gold Coast’s turn with a limited season of this captivating musical dubbed “Best Musical of the Decade,” by Time Magazine, landing on 6 July at The Star Gold Coast.

Bought to you by Gold Coasts’ own Matt Ward Entertainment (MWE) this production, their biggest yet, bands together the best and brightest of the Coast. With hit musicals such as Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert already under its belt, MWE has been continually raising the bar in musical theatre since its basement beginnings at HOTA, Home of The Arts.

Billy Elliot tells the story of a working-class boy fighting prejudice and his own circumstances when he develops a passionate love for dance. Set in a mining town in the north of England during the tumultuous miners’ strike of 1984, the story combines humour and heart with tunes that will leave the audience toe-tapping well into the night.

Harrison Smith in the leading role of Billy Elliot

After a nationwide search, three 12-year-old ‘triple threats,’ were chosen to play the lead; Harrison Smith, Diesel Batson, and Ethan Dahl. Since he was five years old, Gold Coast native Harrison has been earning that title, when he first started to dance, act, and sing.

Playing Billy is a dream come true for Harrison, and he loves performing as much as Billy Elliot himself. “… the whole reason why I love dancing so much is because when you get on that stage, it feels like you’re really free, just free.”

While the three boys have had starkly different upbringings to Billy, they still live in a world where boys dancing and singing can stir prejudice and cruelty. A battle against the odds to be true to yourself despite societal expectations is more relevant than ever.

Harrison reflects on the opposition he faced at school when he first started to dance, “… some people came up to me and said, look, you’re a boy. And you dance. It’s so weird.” In the best response to bullying ever, Harrison channelled his inner Billy Elliot with his response, “I said screw it and I just literally cart-wheeled away.”

Harrison divides his time between Brisbane and the Gold Coast to make the most of his opportunities. For his latest endeavour, the entire production has the spirit of the Gold Coast pulsing through it.

Portia Large, Director of Media and PR Company, LMPR, and celebrated Gold Coast wordsmith, has always been a champion of the Gold Coast and what it has to offer. Even her eyes were opened when she jumped into the arts space and witnessed just how much talent resides here.

“I’m excited about opportunities for youth to express themselves through art and the career paths offered by operators like MWE. The arts give us so much more than we realise.”

Millie Valentine making her stage debut

Some of that talent will be taking to the stage at The Star. Millie Valentine, the daughter of beloved local radio host Emily Jade O’Keeffe, will feature. Keeping it local, the production and PR companies are Gold Coast-based, and more than 100 jobs have been created for the local arts community through this production alone.

Portia thinks she understands why the Gold Coast is not just producing talent but attracting it from elsewhere; “Creative people belong here. This is a place without limits, a place that became a hotspot to hideaway in COVID-19 lockdowns, a place that will only become hotter and more in demand now the word is out. It’s just too good to be true.”

Billy Elliot is playing at The Star for a limited four-week season. Bring the whole family and immerse yourselves in one of the most awe-inspiring musicals of our time.

Presented by Matt Ward Entertainment: Billy Elliot: The Musical is playing at The Star Gold Coast from 6 July. Secure your tickets or find out more.