Faith Prince relishes the road in 'Billy Elliot'

Faith Prince and Giuseppe Bausilio, one of the five Billy Elliot actors.

Faith Prince and Giuseppe Bausilio, one of the five Billy Elliot actors.

Decades into her career, Faith Prince isn't afraid to try new challenges. That's why the longtime Broadway veteran and Tony Award winner will spend the next year and a half on the road with Billy Elliot The Musical, the miner's-son-turned-ballet-dancer musical that opens a monthlong run this week at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

With two stops behind them, the tour is just starting to get settled in. "We put our last Billy in today and he will go on tomorrow night," Prince said last week from Cleveland. The company includes five young actors sharing the title role. "I've never experienced so many actors in a role."

As dance instructor Mrs. Wilkinson, Prince works closely with the Billy Elliot character--and each of the young performers.

[jump] "I go at it a different way with each boy as each of them are so incredibly different. I tend to work that way anyway," Prince says. "So if the tone of one of the boys is to have a quick wit or edginess, I'll play it differently than with someone who is completely innocent."

Though Prince has danced in previous productions, she does not have a intense dance background, which offered a fresh challenge for her role. From the beginning, Prince has worked with dance instructors and professionals to learn the role.

The musical itself has been a hit wherever it has played since opening in the West End in 2005. Based on the 2000 film, the musical follows young Billy Elliot, the son of a striking miner in early 1980s Britain. His father signs him up for boxing lessons, but Billy finds his true passion in another classroom--ballet. The tension his decision causes in his life is the fuel for the movie and the musical, which also includes a score written by Elton John.

"What I love about (the musical) is that it broke the form. The songs do not progress the plot, they are a backdrop to the world we are in," Prince says. "Also, it's a political show with an emotional center. It has blue collar miners doing ballet. It's really got something for everyone."

The role itself also offered plenty of meat for Prince. "There's a lot of complexity in her, and I liked her edge and her humor. There's softness beneath her hard shell."

Keeping the performances fresh is important here, as the tour--the second national company of the musical--continues through 2012.

"Sometimes people hop onto the ride immediately, other times it's a slow burn. Cleveland has a different sensibility than North Carolina, so you have to tune into that audience's humor and pace," Prince says. "I enjoy going to different cities, meeting people, and getting to know the heart of the city. You get to see everything that makes it different. The hardest part is packing up and getting ready to go."

Billy Elliot The Musical previews Thursday, opens Friday, and runs through January 9.