To really bring it, to release his core emotions and ideas, Billy Elliot must dance.
But to dance, the 11-year-old son of a coal miner must overcome entrenched opposition to boys in ballet shoes.
The Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport brings Billy’s struggles to the stage in “Billy Elliot: The Musical.”
Based on the 2000 movie “Billy Elliot,” the musical and its original songs by pianist and composer Elton John opens Friday night — the first of 12 performances, running through Aug. 25.
Director Amanda Giglio said that the show is a dance itself.
Every line, song and movement advances the plot, she tells the cast. They are a receptive group. Many of them, like her, have been dancing since early childhood.
Local dancer and teacher Fontaine Dubus serves as choreographer.
Billy Elliot unfolds in northern England’s County Durham in 1984 during a coal miner’s strike. Anger and bitterness stoked by the impasse intensifies Billy’s predicament.
Turmoil swirls close to home. Billy’s father and brother are both miners.
Will Lombard, 24, of Peabody, plays Billy’s brother, Tony. Lombard said that his character resents his little brother getting to pursue his dream, while he and his father are fighting for their lives.
Lombard grew up in Malden and danced from ages 2-18, an activity derided by peers.
Lombard said that the young actor who plays Billy — Ryan McCann, 14, of Reading — portrays him with a depth that belies his years.
“A lot of time, dancers Ryan’s age, they move beautifully, but we do not see the acting and emotion in it,” Lombard said.
The director said that Billy, a motherless child, is a volatile adolescent on a complex journey.
Musical numbers such as “Angry Dance” and “Electricity” convey Billy’s frustration and the magical release that dance bestows.
Electricity takes place at his Royal Ballet School audition, a powerful scene where Billy is asked why he dances.
Words escape him. Then ...
“He breaks into this dance, and you are able to visualize what he is talking about,” Giglio said.
Ryan, who will be a freshman this fall at Reading Memorial High School, has been dancing for eight years.
He is grateful to be able to dance in a more accepting time.
“It was harder for him than it was for me as a dancer and person,” Ryan said. “He was surrounded by people who are aggressive, and he has to keep his feelings in and can’t express them.”
The magic in the role is expressing Billy’s character through dance.
Billy, in his own way, and any person who plays him, is a miner of sorts. A miner of emotions. Through dance.
The director said that there is something about releasing emotions through movement that is very cathartic.
“When your emotions can’t be conveyed, you sing; when you can’t convey your emotions through singing, you dance,” Giglio said.
If you go
What: “Billy Elliot: The Musical”
When: Aug. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m.; Aug. 10, 11, 18 and 25 at 3 p.m.; and Aug. 15 and 22 at 7 p.m.
Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport
How much: $30
More information: 978-462-7336 or www.firehouse.org
Local cast members
Newburyport: Rob Carroll, Declan Hochheiser, Audrey Hoover, Annelore Poupon and Mathew Bazenas
West Newbury: Massima Iacobucci
Georgetown: Wade Gleeson Turner
Beverly: Aaron Swiniuch
Peabody: Will Lombard and Becky Jo Roland
Reading: Ryan McCann