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Long Grove girl loving her time with 'Billy Elliot'
By Matt Arado | Daily Herald Staff

Kayla King, a 12-year-old Long Grove resident, is part of the cast of "Billy Elliot the Musical."

 

"Billy Elliot the Musical" is about an English boy from a working-class town who dreams of being a ballet dancer.

 

Courtesy Joan Marcus

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Published: 9/9/2010 12:00 AM

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Most 12-year-olds aren't worried about what their resumes look like. But most 12-year-olds aren't part of a Tony Award-winning musical, either.

Long Grove resident Kayla King is the exception. The seventh-grader at Woodlawn Middle School is a "swing" in the cast of "Billy Elliot the Musical," the acclaimed Broadway blockbuster that opened in Chicago this past April.

As a swing, King fills in for certain cast members - the ballet girls - when they can't perform.

"It's an amazing experience," King said. "The cast is like a family to me, and it feels great to have a show like this on my resume."

The musical, directed by Stephen Daldry and based on his 2000 film, tells the story of a boy from a working-class mining town in England who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. The stage version features music from Lee Hall and Elton John.

King landed the swing role after a counselor at a summer theater camp King attended suggested she audition for "Billy Elliot." King's father, a musician, helped her through the process.

"It was my first audition, so it was nerve-racking," she said.

King had to learn all the ballet girls' lines and steps, so that she could fill in when needed. It's been fun, but challenging, she said.

"I was on for a week for one girl who got sick, then later I had to fill in for a different girl," she said. "Making the switch was a little tricky."

The other difficult part has been integrating the show into the rest of her life, especially school. King said she learns from a tutor on Wednesdays, when she has to be downtown.

"That's probably been the hardest part of this, but my teachers have really been great," she said.

King said she hopes to have a career in entertainment when she grows up.

"I'm more comfortable with the dancing side than with theater," she said. "I'd love to be a choreographer some day."

Whatever she does, King knows she'll always consider her experience with "Billy Elliot" to be a special one.

"I'm so happy to be doing this," she said.

• "Billy Elliot the Musical" runs through Jan. 15 at Chicago's Ford Center for the Performing Arts, For information, visit broadwayinchicago.com.