January 2017: Henry treads the boards with Billy Elliot

RISING star Henry Farmer has his feet firmly on the ground despite appearing in a leading musical and spending three weeks out of four away from home. For the last 10 months Henry has been one of four young actors/dancers playing Michael in the acclaimed musical Billy Elliot, which is currently on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

Michael is the leading character’s friend and since February Henry has toured with the company starring in nearly 70 performances at theatres around the country.

On one of his weeks off at his parents’ home in Haslingden, the 11-year-old explained where he gained his love of theatre.

He said: “On my seventh birthday we went to the Palace Theatre to see Oliver and I said to my parents, ‘I want to be on that stage.’”

Now he is.

While still at Haslingden Primary School, Henry joined Rossendale Dance and Drama Centre (RDDC) in Waterfoot. Initially he began learning street dance and musical theatre.

His mum Julie, 47, who now runs the RDDC’s casting agency, said: “Within four weeks he was also doing ballet, tap and dance.”

He added more genres to his extra curricular activity and went to London for a casting that would eventually lead him land him the role of Michael.

When the casting director Jessica Ronane said he was too young at the moment and advised he work on his tap dancing and acting, he enrolled for private lessons with teachers from RDDC.

Teacher Becki Onley is credited in the programme for Billy Elliot for her work with Henry.

While talking to Henry it is noticeable that he never stays still, often hopping off the bar stool and dancing around the kitchen, he even revealed that he danced in the aisles at his local Tesco.

Henry, now a Year 7 student at Haslingden High School, spends three weeks while he is working staying with the three other young cast members, chaperones and tutors. Mornings are spent on school work, afternoons on rehearsals and evenings on performance.

When the tour was in Sunderland, Harry’s dad Paul, 48, who is in Summerseat Players, said they visited Easington Colliery where the film is based.

Paul said: “When they held the last performance in the West End in April, Easington Colliery Band performed on stage and proceeds from the performance to the East Durham Trust who support former mining communities.

“We support Henry in the choice he has made because he is doing what he wants to and he puts a lot of time and effort in.”

Henry added: “I couldn’t stand up and sing in front of an audience of 30 or even three, but when it is in front of 2,000 people I can do it, because you can’t see the audience when you are on the stage.”

The last venue in the UK-tour is Milton Keynes in May 2017 and then it will be in Hamburg in Germany in June and July.