Young actors master demanding role
“So many actors actually want that thing, and I got it after only a year,” marvels David Alvarez of his Tony Award.Yeah, rub it in, kid. Fifteen-year-old Alvarez (a trained ballet dancer before he went legit) was one of the three original actors to play the lead in “Billy Elliot” on Broadway, and in June he and fellow Billys — Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish — shared the best actor trophy for their turns in the demanding role, which is rotated among a team of young thesps. An English boy who’s just gotta dance despite the limitations of his working-class environs, Billy would be a Herculean part even for an adult, with almost three hours of near-constant stage time that includes singing, dancing and acting (not to mention speaking in an authentic-sounding Northern English accent). The original trio trained for close to a year to appear in the show, and adult thesp Gregory Jbara, who portrays Billy’s father, remains impressed. “The physical demands of that role are awe-inspiring, and when they muscle through it, it’s kind of miraculous,” he says. “When you see the simplicity and the unconditional discipline they show, it helps clear the crap out of your own perspective.” One of the tragedies of the role, of course, is that the adolescent actors can’t play it for long, before their voices change. Kulish has already moved on, and while neither Alvarez nor Kowalik has a definite date of departure, both know their exit is nearing. “I don’t have a lot of time left,” Alvarez says. “I’m getting really old.” Impact: A joint Tony Award for best actor in the title role of tuner “Billy Elliot.” Next: Two continue in “Billy” until they outgrow the part, while Kulish tries “The Nutcracker.” Causes: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
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