WHEN BILLY ELLIOT CALLED, NOLEN DUBUC’S WHOLE FAMILY LEAPT
It’s tough to imagine now but, last year, 11-year-old Nolen Dubuc was burnt out.
Between his dance classes, singing lessons, keeping up with school, going out for TV and film auditions, and appearing in a few theatre productions, something had to give. So Nolen and his mom Kristin told his agent that the only theatre role he would consider for the time being was Billy Elliot.
It wasn’t long before Kristin and her husband Yannick got the email.
“I remember that day so clearly. I was parking to go pick (Nolen) and (his brother Sam) up at school. The phone binged, I looked, it was an email saying the Stratford Festival was doing Billy Elliot. I called Yannick immediately,” Kristin says from inside the Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ont. “He answered the phone and said, ‘I know. I just read it.’”
The hitch: Kristin and Yannick Dubuc, along with their three boys Sam, 14, Nolen, and Gabe, 9, had hectic lives in Vancouver. None of them had ever been to Stratford. If Nolen, who has been dancing since he was 4 years old, auditioned and got the part, it would mean a year away from home.
“(Yannick) just said, ‘Let’s just see what happens,’” Kristin says.
Long story short, Nolen was cast as the lead in the Olivier and Tony Award-winning Billy Elliot, the Elton John-Lee Hall musical based on the 2000 movie that starred Jamie Bell as the titular ballet hopeful growing up in the middle of the 1984/85 miners’ strike in northeastern England. READ MORE
NOLEN DUBUC OWNS THE LEAD IN BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL
Enter Nolen Dubuc. Director/choreographer Donna Feore cast the 11-year-old Vancouverite in the title role in Billy Elliot after a nationwide search, and he anchors the show with astonishing talent and confidence.
Dubuc is already an award-winning musical theatre and dance performer, and those chops serve him well in this gruelling role, fronting the 2.5-hour show and leading multiple major production numbers. Throughout this Stratford summer, as on opening night, audiences will be on their feet hooting and hollering their admiration for Dubuc’s achievement and that of the 30-plus member cast that support him.
While there’s an amazing kid at the centre of this show, it should be underlined that this is not necessarily an entertainment for the whole family. One of the first words out of Billy’s mouth is an f-bomb, and the Stratford Festival website accurately describes the language throughout as “strong and at times profane.” READ MORE
STRATFORD FESTIVAL: BALANCING LIFE AND WORK AS CHILD ACTOR
It’s both a dream come true and the hardest thing they’ve ever worked on in their lives.
For Nolen Dubuc, 11, and Emerson Gamble, 13, landing the roles of on-stage best friends Billy and Michael in the Stratford Festival’s production of Billy Elliot the Musical has meant a complete and abrupt change from everything they once knew.
For Nolen, it meant moving with his family from Vancouver to Stratford, while Emerson, who lives and attends ballet school in London, had a little less far to travel.
From January, when they both attended Billy boot camp, to their first rehearsal at the beginning of February all the way through to the first previews of the show in April, the two boys and the 15 other kids who make up a portion of the musical’s cast have basically lived and breathed Billy Elliot. READ MORE