Mike Smith played the role of Tony, Billy’s older brother, in Billy Elliot The Musical. The role is full of emotion and intensity, and HMT asked Mike how he maintained that when performing 8 shows a week…
Mike Smith: I tend to spend calm, relaxing, stress-free days at home, on the beach and in the gym. Come show time anything I have bottled up inside I try to utilise as fuel to Tony’s fiery temper. It’s a great way to unleash any tension I might have in my daily life. It’s become a great form of therapy actually. Plenty of sleep too.
HMT: You mention Tony’s temper – he is probably the closest thing to an antagonist in the show. Do you think he has any redeeming qualities?
MS: I’d like to say his sexy legs (check out the Christmas scene costume) but even they leave more than a little to be desired. Seriously though, Tony is a bloke I’d like to have in my corner. He is loyal , honourable and a seeker of truth and a fair go for the working family – I’m starting to sound like Kevin Rudd. There’s hope for Tony because deep down I think he’s a big softy. He possesses a heart of gold beneath his steely hard exterior. Both his dad and Billy find ways, either directly or by chance, to expose this side of Tony. He has a lot of love to give, he just has a tough time expressing it.
HMT: While the story is essentially the same, the musical and the film are different. What do you think makes the story work on stage?
MS: If anyone had said to me (as the credits rolled on Billy Elliot the movie), “wouldn’t this make a great stage musical?” I would have laughed in their face and poured my remaining popcorn over their head. Really, if it were not for the genius of Lee Hall (writer), Elton John (composer), Stephen Daldry (director) and Peter Darling (choreographer), Billy would forever just remain a great film. In the most unique fashion this creative team tells a raw, every-man story. They have captured the thrill and exhilaration of dance and then underscored it with a musical narrative that has given Billy Elliot The Musical its final ingredient.
I got to see the show before we began rehearsals and as I walked into the theatre, I was sceptical. Gladly I was deeply moved, laughed til I cried and was entertained like never before. If I had to put it down to one thing – the story – it is one of the strongest, most moving tales I have ever seen in the musical arena.
HMT: On the one hand you’re working with veterans of the stage and on the other with incredibly talented newcomers. What is it like to work with such a wide range of experience?
MS: It’s a very rare and fortunate environment actually. To be working with the energy and enthusiasm and raw talent of the Billys one minute and to learn from the wisdom and experience of the likes of Richard Piper and Genevieve Lemon the next is not an opportunity you come by everyday. In fact the entire company have so much to offer on so many levels. The young Michael’s have shown me a new approach to comedic timing (they rock) and the ensemble have helped me to appreciate the culture of working in a large company. It’s a fantastic family to be part of.