Tonawanda News — For actor Rich Hebert, accepting the part of “Dad” in “Billy Elliot the Musical” was “deadly right.”
“It’s just perfect for me and I love doing it,” he said of the role he’s been performing for nearly two years now.
Hebert plays the dad of title character Billy Elliot in the Tony Award-winning musical, which is scheduled to be Shea’s Performing Arts Center Tuesday through Sunday.
And while the show is in town only a few days, Hebert said he “could do this show every single night.”
“It’s a show that I look forward to doing every single time. ... and I look forward to doing it for another year if possible,” he said.
A few years before auditioning for the role of Billy’s hardened, blue-collar father, Hebert said he had just about given up on acting as a career.
He was working on a show from 2004-06 in Las Vegas called “We Will Rock You” that was supposed to run for 10 years. He had recently gotten married and was a new father.
“I thought maybe I should try to change my career and do something more stable,” he said, so he moved back to his home in Massachusetts and tried his hand at teaching college.
Then the Billy Elliot part became available and after a year of three separate auditions, Hebert landed the role in the musical, which he says echoes the concerns of many Americans in today’s economic climate.
“All these people are losing their jobs (in the musical) and the economic times are very similar for people out there,” he said.
The father character — a miner — is concerned with raising two sons single-handedly after the death of his wife all while a mining strike is going on.
“He has Billy, who’s such a wildcard,” Hebert said. “He’s trying to toughen him up with boxing lessons,” even though Billy only wants to take ballet lessons.
“Billy has the odds against him as far as how people look at dancers. To break out of that and do something so artistic, that’s a hard thing. It can seem like something that’s frivolous to hardworking families,” Hebert said.
“Any person in that audience has had a dream and either had it crushed or fulfilled with help and I think people can relate to that,” he said.
Hebert said he’s really enjoyed working with so many young people, from the child actors who perform the kids in Billy’s ballet classes, to the four rotating actors who play Billy himself.
“It’s great. They have so much energy and it’s such a different vibe than we older, more jaded actors have. It’s fun to see things fresh through their eyes,” he said.
Fun facts about the show
• Since its world premiere, 27 boys have played Billy in London, 10 have played Billy in Australia and 13 boys have played the title role on Broadway. A total of 61 boys, including Jamie Bell who played Billy Elliot in the award-winning film, have now performed the title role.
• The first North American performance of Billy Elliot the Musical was at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre on October 1, 2008. The Broadway production recently welcomed its 1.5 millionth patron.
• The average Billy stays in the role for 1.5 years.
• Every Billy is assigned four pairs of ballet slippers at a time — the show pair, a backup pair, a rehearsal pair and a promotions pair.IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Billy Elliot the Musical" • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday • WHERE: Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St., Buffalo • COST: $27.50 to $67.50 • MORE INFORMATION: Call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or go to www.ticketmaster.com, or visit www.sheas.org.