Two successful London long runners have established successful, far-reaching education programmes and both, despite the gloomy economic climate, have now renewed their commitment to taking ever more learning and opportunity to young people.
Billy Youth Theatre 2010 involved 115 groups and over 5,000 young people. From Stirling to Southampton, groups staged productions of Billy Elliot locally, with invited groups going on to perform at seven regional showcases. In July this year 14 groups took part in the BYT West End Gala at the Victoria Palace Theatre by performing Lee Hall’s adapted version of Billy Elliot The Musical in front of a sell-out house that included Hall as well as Billy Elliot director, Stephen Daldry.
The producers of Billy Elliot The Musical have just announced the second year of this countrywide scheme which allows participating schools and youth groups to stage their own production of the show. Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, together with Martin Koch (Musical Supervision and Orchestrations), have adapted their original script and orchestrations to produce a shortened version of the show suitable for such groups.
Participation can have dramatic results. Take Connor Lawson, 12, who comes from a mining family in the former mining town of Shotton, County Durham. In July this year he played the role of Billy’s best friend Michael in Shotton Hall Theatre School’s performance at the 2010 Billy Youth Theatre West End Gala. Next month he joins the London cast of Billy Elliot The Musical in the same role.
Applications for Billy Youth Theatre 2011 are invited from schools and established youth organisations in England, Scotland and Wales. Participating performers must be aged 10 - 19 on 18 March, 2011. Between May and June 2011 regional showcases will be held at professional theatres across the country at which invited groups will be asked to perform an excerpt from their production. In July 2011 selected groups from around the country will be invited to perform at the Billy Youth Theatre West End Gala at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London.
Lee Hall, who originally conceived the idea behind Billy Youth Theatre, said: “I was completely overwhelmed by the response to our first Billy Youth Theatre. The level of energy and commitment from everyone involved was exceptional. I hope we can repeat the excitement and enthusiasm in our second year. We are looking forward to getting started.”
Full details of how to apply for the Billy Youth Theatre and updates throughout the project, go to www.billyyouththeatre.com.
Meanwhile, last month the London production of Disney’s The Lion King welcomed its 500,000th school pupil as part of the show’s education programme - quite an achievement by any standards.
The 500,000th school pupil was part of a group of 6th form students from Gateway College in Leicester who were visiting London specifically to see The Lion King. Following the performance, the entire group was treated to a backstage tour of this award-winning musical where the students had the opportunity to meet some of the cast.
As The Lion welcomed this record-breaking school visit, the show also celebrated the highest annual attendance from school groups in the show’s history. Over 67,000 school pupils from around the UK saw the show during the period October 2009 to September 2010, with the highest monthly attendance in June with over 10,000 visits.
School groups which book tickets to see The Lion King get access to the show’s curriculum-linked education programme. This includes primary and secondary teachers’ packs, supporting activity sheets, an hour-long educational DVD Behind the Scenes with comprehension questionnaires as well as curriculum links and additional online resources
Earlier this term a new website - exploringthelionking.co.uk - was created. It enables pupils to explore the inspiration behind the show’s costumes, masks and puppets. Originally part of the exhibition, Exploring The Lion King, the new online resource, opens the same information to more young people.
See also: www.lionkingeducation.co.uk