Last dance for Billy Elliot in West End before going on tour
Published 10/04/2016 | 00:06
Sir Elton John turned out with his husband David Furnish to watch the last West End production of Billy Elliot The Musical before it goes on a nationwide tour.
Holding hands with Furnish as he a rrived at London's Victoria Palace Theatre, Sir Elton entered through the VIP bar entrance with his husband, stopping only to pose for photographs.
Sir Elton is the composer of the music for the award-winning West End production, and attended Saturday's night performance to say his final farewells to the show.
Eleven years after the Bafta-winning film was adapted for the theatre, the cast of Billy Elliot played out their final performance at the theatre, bringing to an end an era which has seen 4,600 performances, four Olivier awards, and more than 5.25 million people flock through the theatre doors.
Based on the award-winning film directed by Stephen Daldry, the show has won more than 80 international awards since its London premiere in 2005, grossing 800 million US dollars internationally in the process.
The idea to create a West End production was first brought to life in 2004, when Sir Elton and cast were invited to perform at the Royal Variety Show.
Since then, the cast have gone on to perform at Buckingham Palace and the White House, and were invited to visit Downing Street in 2011, where they met with David Cameron.
Speaking to the Billy Elliot Company before the final show, Sir Elton described the musical's lifespan as one of "the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.
"The talented young performers who have become part of our Billy Elliot family have amazed me with their achievements from the very start," he said.
"I am so delighted new audiences around the country will now have the opportunity to experience this extraordinary piece of work."
Lee Hall, the original writer, said the theatre had been an "incredible place to start our theatrical journey".
"Our show has become so much bigger than anything I could have imagined and what has been particularly gratifying is to hear how many people have been genuinely inspired by Billy's story," he said.
"I can't wait to take the show on tour, especially to the North East - it's going to be an extraordinary thing to take Billy's story back to where it started."
Attending the show for the last time at the Victoria, Jonathan Farr, 43, who has seen the production more than 100 times, including on Broadway and in Chicago, said it was an "emotional night".
"I saw the play for the first time two years after it first began and just thought wow. Over the years I've got to know and become friends with some of the cast, the thing that struck me was just how friendly everyone is. It's like one big family."
Mr Farr added that the musical's storyline resonated with his own experiences growing up during the miners' strikes.
"I lost both my parents when I was young...that part of the show I can really related to," he said.
"It tells an in-depth message about the time, and having lived through that time, it really struck a chord with me."
The show will now be packed up and ferried across the country for its first UK and Ireland tour, which is scheduled to run until at least 2017.