The Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga's upcoming production of the Broadway hit "Billy Elliot: The Musical" will have a local feel with a trio of area students taking the stage.
Based on the popular motion picture of the same name, the audience is treated to a gem of musical theatre where they see the power of determination and persistence triumph. Billy, the son of a mining family, struggles in lessons only to discover dance. While his father, brother and the rest of the miner's union strike against mining companies, Billy struggles to find acceptance in his new passion.
Drawing inspiration from a trio of unlikely women (his dead mother, his senile grandmother and an acerbic ballet instructor), Billy's journey mirrors the same determination of the union and through Billy, the audience is able to appreciate potential and embrace compromise to find a path to success.
In the title role is Ellis Stephens, 12, a seventh-grader at Dalton Middle School. He performed this past summer in the Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition's production of "Henry V" as Boy at Burr Performing Arts Park in downtown Dalton. He also appeared in Artistic Civic Theatre's "Mary Poppins" as Michael Banks. He also is a student at Catapult Acting Studios in Atlanta.
"Working with kids and showing them a new world of creativity through theatre, whether I am introducing them to it or building off of their previous experiences, is such a joy," said Garry Lee Posey, who is directing the show. "This is a beast of a role and he doesn't take that responsibility lightly."
Joining Stephens is Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga newcomer Dennis Parker as Billy's father and Kendra Gross as Billy's Dead Mum and Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga veterans Marianna Allen as the ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson and Brenda Schwab as Billy's grandmother.
Rounding out the largest cast Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga has assembled are newcomers Fields Thomas, Roxanne Gibson, Caelen Austin, Jake Zachery, Kal McClure, Russ Kerr, Tristan Haugh, Josie Julienne, Libby Weaver, Marley Kilgore and Henley Green along with returning Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga artists Cody Keown, Rodney Strong, Joseph Watts, Eric "Red" Wyatt, Callie Coplen, Megan Smith, Alyssa Whitesell and Jordan Bennett.
Like Stephens, Green and Kilgore are local students.
Green, 14, is a freshman at Northwest Whitfield High School. She has appeared previously in Dalton Little Theatre's production of "Willy Wonka Jr." as Charlie Bucket. She also was in Dalton Little Theatre's "Shrek Jr." Most recently at Artistic Civic Theatre, Green performed in "Thoroughly Modern Millie."
Kilgore, 10, is a fifth-grader at Cohutta Elementary. She most recently performed as Young Elsa in "Frozen Jr." at Artistic Civic Theatre. Prior to that she was Young Fiona in "Shrek Jr. and had a role in "Willy Wonka Jr." at Dalton Little Theatre.
In January, she will be attending the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta with North Whitfield Middle School's drama performance of "Seussical Jr."
Also with local ties is show choreographer Fallon Garret. She is the owner of the Barre Dance Company located in Dalton. Joel Sanchez, of Murray County, is part of the stage management team.
The shows will be performed at Barking Legs Theatre in Chattanooga on Dec. 14-15 and Dec. 19-21. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday show is at 2:30 p.m. Barking Legs Theatre is at 1307 Dodds Ave. in Chattanooga.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.ensembletheatreofchatta nooga.com.