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Elton John World News: ''Billy Elliot'' Star is Setting a Record

''Billy Elliot'' Star is Setting a Record-- Posted by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday 26 January 2007 @ 16:35 - GMT

Leon Cooke is to become the longest-running star in one of the UK's most popular West End musicals.

The 15-year-old has already performed in front of thousands of people, and signed countless autographs as ''Billy Elliot,'' and has now signed a new contract until June, The Sentinel announced on January 26, 2007.

The pupil of Newcastle's St John Fisher Catholic High School has been playing the lead role at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London since September 2005.

He has just renewed his contract, and in less than a month, the young actor and dancer will have acquired new status as the longest-running Billy in the UK show, which opened in March 2005.

The production, with music by Sir Elton, is about a boy from a north-east mining village who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.

Leon has worked with several casts throughout his time as Billy.

He said: "I never expected to be playing the part for this long - I think it's amazing.

"There's a forum for the fans of the show, and they reckon I'll have been playing Billy for the longest on February 8. The time has flown, and I cannot believe that by the time I leave in the summer, I'll have been performing for 21 months. I leave school in May, and then I take my GCSEs.

"In the future I'd like to do more West End musicals, or maybe television or film work. I've got auditions for a few colleges in London, and all going well, I'll be starting at one of them in September.

"My life is crazy. The whole experience has been totally life-changing."

His mum, Joy, said the family was very impressed with how talented he had become.

She said: He's having the time of his life. Leon has come on so much since his first performance - it's absolutely amazing, and he has really matured.

"I was really surprised to learn that he was going to be the longest-serving Billy.

"We originally thought it would just be a six-month stint, and it's fantastic that he's still performing. The whole family will definitely be there for his last show."

Leon's former dance teacher, Marilyn Jones, said she was incredibly proud of what he has achieved.

She said: "From the age of two, he has been very dedicated to his dancing, and I always had high expectations of him.

"Leon is such a nice, likeable lad, and hasn't changed at all.

"I'm very proud of what he has achieved at such a young age, especially to have become the longest-running Billy."