Billy Elliot originally emerged as a 2000 movie about a young boy from an English mining town who defies his father’s wishes and follows his passion to become a ballet dancer. Directed by Stephen Daldry, it became a critical favorite and a cult hit, launching the career of actor Jamie Bell (King Kong, Fantastic Four). However, Billy Elliot is also a hit musical based on the movie, written by the film’s screenwriter, Lee Hall, with original music from no less an icon than Elton John.
The Media Theatre’s latest production is the Tony Award-winning show, currently running through Jan. 3rd and starring a Delaware County resident in the title role.
The show stars Media’s Brandon Ranalli and West Chester’s Gunar Daniels, who trade the role between performances. Though both boys are Pennsylvania residents, they were cast, ironically, at an open call in New York.
“We decided we would go to New York and see what was available there,” said Jesse Cline, artistic director of the Media Theatre. “After seeing quite a few people (there), it came down to the actors who would be best suited for this production — Gunar and Brandon. We thought, ‘Wow, after all that, we find these two guys who are here in our immediate area.'”
A Media native, the 13 year-old Ranalli began dancing at age three. He is no stranger to the show, having performed in productions of it in Wichita and Long Island. Ranalli is also known to the Media Theatre. “Brandon had choreographed a piece for us a couple of years ago that we did at our gala which was truly amazing,” recalled Cline.
Though an accomplished dancer, Ranalli backed into acting more recently. “I started acting when I was 11,” said Ranalli. “I auditioned for a performing arts school and I got in. I mainly did it for scheduling reasons because I was so busy and I was dancing a lot of hours, and I only go to a performing arts school two days, which freed up my schedule with other stuff. So I took on acting there.”