For 11-year-old actress and dancer Genai Veal, Billy Elliot is a role model.
Now a sixth-grader playing one of the English ballet girls who Elliot trains alongside in the musical, Genai had what she called Billy' s "feeling of dance" when she was very young. In fact, Veal began her study at the age of 2. Now she speaks so eloquently about her own training and the show, which played at the Opera House this month, and how she could be a role model herself.
Veal spoke passionately about the wide range of her study.
"I've studied tap, jazz, musical theater, contemporary, hip hop, lyrical and modern dance," said the Patterson, N.J. native.
That diversity has served her well in "Billy Elliot." where the ballet girls do a mix of ballet, jazz and tap.
Veal was so proficient at tap that she entered a New Jersey dance competition at the age of 9 and won. In another competition, she performed a jazz solo and gained the title of "Little Miss Showbiz." Later, she went on to Nationals in Orlando, where she danced another tap solo and came in third.
"I've also won a lot of special awards, " she added, including fastest feet, highest kicks and overhead kicks, among others.
The musical "Billy Elliot" celebrates solidarity and understanding between children and adults. In the film, Elliot discovers that dancing is his inner passion and opts for dance lessons instead of sports training. Initially, only his grandmother and ballet school teacher Mrs. Wilkinson support and encourage that passion, while his clueless miner Dad and brother Tony discourage him at every turn.
Set during the era of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the show directly confronts the poverty and despair of largely marginalized miners. With snappy music by Elton John and strikingly vivid book and lyrics by Lee Hall, "Billy Elliot" brings its unassuming but determined young hero's dream to touching realization. At the same time, Dad's love for Billy grows to embrace his son's passion for dance.
Just as with Billy Elliot, Veal received encouragement from a grandmother.
"My Grandma, Letha Veal, took me to my first dance class," she said.
She also had the support had the support of her mother.
"My mom, Genea, was a dancer and a singer too, and played piano," Veal said.”I play piano.".
Child and adult theatergoers alike will embrace the show with all its riches, especially Peter Darling's soaring choreography and the strong touring cast--
kudos to director Stephen Daldry and assistant director Julian Webber. Kylend Hetherington is impassioned and properly vulnerable as Billy. His turns and jumps are exciting, and his reading of his late Mother's "Dear Billy Letter" will rightly break your heart. Rich Hebert is convincingly tenacious as Dad. Janet Dickinson is strikingly undaunted as demanding teacher Mrs. Wilikinson. The ensemble ballet girls and the ensemble miners are equally sharp throughout the show.
"Billy Elliot: The Musical" was at the Boston Opera House until August 19. 617-931-2787 or broadwayboston.com.