‘Billy’ dances into the black

Tuner recoups $18 million in 14 months

Broadway tuner “Billy Elliot” has recouped its $18 million capitalization costs in 14 months, according to the show’s producers.

News will come as a surprise to no one, since the show bowed in November 2008 to glowing reviews, won 10 Tonys and became a constant member of the weekly millionaire’s club. The production was the second-highest grossing Broadway show in 2009, pulling in about $66.2 million for the calendar year.

Still, the transfer of the 2005 London hit, which is still running there, looked a bit more like a pricey risk before it opened. Many observers wondered whether the site-specificity of the story — set in the 1980s in Northern England, complete with accents — might prove a hindrance to Stateside auds.

Such worries, however, ultimately proved groundless for the show, based on the 2000 pic and produced on the Rialto by Universal Pictures Stage Prods., Working Title Films and Old Vic Prods in association with Weinstein Live Entertainment. Show’s success on Broadway has led to a national tour that will launch in March with a long stay in Chicago.

A second North American tour could follow, and international productions are lined up for Korea and Japan, among other countries potentially on the docket.

Also expanding is the unusually hefty infrastructure required to keep multiple incarnations of “Billy” running at once. In each production, the tuner’s demanding title role is played by more than one young actor rotating in the part, and all those budding thesps require months of in a training program prior to tackling the show. (The three boys who originated Billy on Broadway shared a joint Tony last spring.)

Show has music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall, the original screenwriter of “Billy.” Stephen Daldry, who directed the pic, helms.

Success of “Billy” has prompted Working Title, which produced both the film and the stage versions of “Billy,” to consider further legit outings.

We’re definitely thinking about doing more,” said Working Title co-chair Eric Fellner.

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