A TALENTED Hartlepool youngster is wowing audiences after landing the role of Billy Elliot on the West End stage.
Ali Rasul, 12, received three standing ovations during his first night playing the boy who shunned a life down the mines for a ballet career.
He is the 33rd boy cast in the part, made famous by the movie of the same name, which was filmed in Easington Colliery, since the production’s 2005 West End debut.
But he is the only one from the region lucky enough to do so.
On Monday, Ali dazzled audiences, including proud relatives, when he took to the stage at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre.
The High Tunstall College of Science student, who lives with uncle Saleem Rasul and siblings Neena, 13, Shaane, 10, Natasha, nine, and four-year-old Esha in St Paul’s Road, said: “I got into dancing when I was five years old and since then it has become my passion in life.
“After many auditions and lots of training I was finally picked to play Billy Elliot.
“It’s good that I’m from Hartlepool, close to where Billy is from!”
“I was so surprised and excited to have been cast and I couldn’t wait until my first performance on stage.”
Ali was a member of town hip hop troop Lil Diamondz, a junior off-shoot of Ruff Diamond, trained by Zac Healey, which won Alesha Dixon’s Street Dance Stars on CBBC, competed in the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas, both in 2011, and auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent last year.
He joined the Debbie Barrass Academy of Performing Arts last May, where he developed his ballet, tap and jazz, progressed his vocals with Peter de Dee and also had private ballet lessons in Newcastle twice a week.
He went to Billy Elliot auditions in Newcastle last year and excelled.
Proud uncle Tariq Rasul, 44, who lives with wife Diane in Carlton Street and runs the Quids In shop in Murray Street, has been taking Ali to dancing lessons since he was small.
He said: “He had one audition in Newcastle and got straight through to the London rounds. The producers said ‘there’s something about that boy’.”
He had countless auditions in London while living in ‘the Billy house’ with other audition hopefuls.
In October he was told he had landed the part, which is shared with four other boys.
Tariq, whose children Yasmin, 14, Emile, 10, and Khan, 12, also attend Debbie’s academy, said: “On Monday night, all the cast said to me they couldn’t believe how excellent he was.”
Saleem took Ali for private ballet lessons and auditions, as did Ali’s grandad Keith.
Saleem said: “It’s his hard work that got him where he is, and I’d like to thank Debbie Barrass for her support.”
Debbie said: “It’s just lovely for Ali, he has worked hard for it.”