The 10th Anniversary Australian tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Billy Elliot is currently playing at the Sydney Lyric Theatre and actor Drew Livingston is taking out the role of Tony, Billy’s brother in an emotional role that sees him acting and singing in a number of performances every week.
Drew toured Australia in the National Theatre’s global phenomenon War Horse, composed and acted in Bell Shakespeare’s Henry V and appeared on Australian television series Tricky Business.
Here Back Row chat to the actor about Tony and his own experiences as an actor.
How did you get the role of Tony?
I was asked to audition for the role. At the audition I sung some of the material from the show and also did two of the scenes. I was also called back to do some dancing which I was not expecting but I must have done ok because now I am in the show.
Who is this character to you and why is their relationship with Billy so important?
To me, Tony is a man of passion, loyalty and integrity. A lot of his anger and frustration throughout the musical comes from the sense of great injustice he feels that others have not lived up to these values. First of all, Tony and Billy are brothers and in the show, Tony really represents the most obvious outcome for Billy were he not to find dance.
What is the heart of Billy Elliot about?
Belonging, family and community. There is a great song that Michael, Billy’s best friend sings which is all about expressing who you are and staying true to yourself, and that is what the show is about.
How are you like Tony?
I think I am very passionate and have a keen sense of justice.
What’s your favourite scene or musical number?
My favourite song in the show is a song called “Once We Were Kings”, it’s about all the miners expressing their collective pride in their community and who they are. It is a great song to belt out at the end of the show.
What have been your biggest challenges in bringing this character and this show to life?
I have never had any dance training and it wasn’t until the first week of rehearsals I realised how much dancing I have to do in this show. It required a lot of rehearsal, mental and physical effort and a few private lessons with the choreographer but I think we got there in the end.
You have a strong history of theatre. What’s your dream role?
There’s a whole host of great Shakespearean roles I would love to play but also I love to do musicals so I will be happy with any role that comes along.
What’s next for you and where is Billy Elliot heading after Sydney?
Billy Elliot is heading all over the country – Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. At this point, that is my primary focus and we’ll see what happens when next year rolls around.
Originally published on Back Row, 18 November, 2019.