Port Moody teen Nolan Fahey wasn’t born when British prime minister Margaret Thatcher challenged the coal miners during the 1984-’85 coal miners strike.
But somehow the Eagle Mountain middle school student manages to convey the anxiety, confusion and pain of the times as Billy in the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Billy Elliot:The Musical, on now until July 10 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in Vancouver.
As a member of the talented cast, which includes two other Tri-City youngsters — fellow Eagle Mountain students Julia MacLean as Tracy and Nathan Piasecki, a member of the ensemble — Fahey carries much of the show’s emotional weight on his skinny shoulders.
Plus the 13-year-old boy has to dance the ballet, as his character changes from a lumbering teenager forced to take boxing lessons to a promising young dancer seeking his fortune on stage at the Royal Ballet School, all of which takes place against the backdrop of a violent strike.
How does he do it?
In an interview with The Tri-City News last week, Fahey was humble as he described his daily routine between school and nightly shows, the work he had to do to develop his ballet dancing skills and how he manages to express a range of emotions.
Fahey said he has been working on obtaining the choice role since last summer when he enrolled in ballet camp, in addition to his studies at the Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts in Coquitlam.
“I feel like I really fit the character personally. It was one of the dream roles of mine because they do so much dancing in that role.”
With Port Coquitlam’s Valerie Easton as the choreographer, Fahey said he enjoyed perfecting his ballet and tap skills and received a lot of inspiration and support.
“It was cool working with her, how nice she is and like how she teaches it. She makes it seem so simple.”
During the ballet scene with professional ballet dancer Matthew Cluff, when Fahey is lifted off the stage in a harness, the audience’s breath is momentarily taken away. But young Fahey had more immediate concerns.
“I won’t eat close to the beginning of the show, for Act Two and we do the harness thing — because I never have a chance to go off stage and there’s so much dancing — I don’t want a lot of food in my stomach.”
To prepare for the role, Fahey watched the original British dance drama film, studied the Yorkshire accent and read news clippings posted on the wall during rehearsal to get a feel for the time period.
He has many more performances ahead but is enjoying the experience even as he has to squeeze school in with his acting role.
“It has been fun getting to do the role, and seeing the cast every day. The cast the is so nice,” Fahey said.
A student in School District 43’s EPIC program for performing artists and athletes, Fahey is able to attend rehearsals and study for his academic courses.
Typically, he does his homework between rehearsal breaks or when he gets home.
As he has been taught at Lindbjerg, Fahey draws on his own experience to express a wide range of emotions in the character of young Billy who has to fight stereotypes — and his family — to follow his dream.
“I try to get into the character as much as I can before the show so, when I do it, it comes and considering we do it so much, I’ve gotten use to it. I think of things that make me sad or get me frustrated — like my brother.”
• Billy Elliot: The Musical runs at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until July 10. Tickets available at www.artsclub.com.