Interview: Meet Grandma
We sat down with Andrea Miller to find out what life on tour is like as well as how she took on the challenge of becoming Billy’s Grandma and what she thinks it takes to be ‘Billy Elliot’.
How did you get the role?
My agent sent me for an audition and in the initial audition you just get the last part of Grandma’s song to learn. Then I was asked back for four recalls, which spanned for what seemed longer than a school term and then they offered me the job.
Who is Grandma?
Grandma is a typical grandma of the time, she married very young, which is what you did then. She had children; Billy’s dad is the only surviving one and she lives with Billy and his dad and elder brother.
What is her relationship with Billy and why is it so important?
Grandma’s relationship with Billy is so important because she provides stability – he’s lost his mum, his dad is stressed and doesn’t know how to deal with Billy. Billy’s troubled, he’s a lost boy and he gravitates toward Grandma. Grandma provides a haven for him.
How does Grandma fit into the community?
Grandma’s name is Edna – and everybody loves Edna – she tells it like it is. The miners all love her and all flock to her for breakfast and eat her out of house and home! But she’s got a heart, a real soul and she’s very much loved by everybody.
What is Billy Elliot the Musical about?
It’s a feel-good musical; it’s inspiring, it’s awesome. If you come to Billy Elliot the Musical you will not be disappointed because it’s a show for everyone. Everybody, at some point in their life, must have said ‘I can’t do that, I’m too scared.’ The musical shows you that you just need the courage to recognise the opportunity and to go for it, and Billy does that.
Do you see yourself in Grandma at all?
Yes, there are elements of Grandma in me – I have nieces and nephews so I know what it’s like to be around young children. In fact, I often like young children better than grownups because they’re more interesting a lot of the time and they’re interested in you as well, because as you get older you have more stories to tell.
What dancing do you have to do in the show?
I have a dance with six men, all representing my husband. That was what Grandma loved best in her life – the moments that she got to go dancing with her husband. It was a release for her, they were free from the people they had to be. The dance is to a waltz type song where she reflects on her life and if she had her time over again what she might have done.
What do you find interesting with the choreography?
In that dance it’s perfect for explaining a lot about Grandma. It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s explanatory. The other pieces are choreographed and integrated so well with whatever the current scene is. There are so many different factions and you just watch in utter amazement because they seamlessly fold into each other. It all fits in and it’s like a machine, it’s like the sets on a stage that piece together like a puzzle.
What’s your favourite scene or musical number?
My favourite number is Solidarity, I’ve got to say. I love all the numbers, I think they are wonderful, but Solidarity for me has got to be the stand out number of the show because of the different things that are going on. It’s an extraordinary feat of theatre, I think its gobsmacking, really.
What do you think it takes to be Billy Elliot?
It takes steely determination. You can’t have any fear of doing these acrobatics, they’re not frightened of doing the twists and the backflips. You have to be an actor, a singer, be able to dance and do acrobatics. It’s not asking very much really, is it? No pressure.
But, I’m sure there are people listening to this saying, ‘I want to try, I really do…’, and you know what never, ever give up. There’ll be bad times and hard times when you think, ‘I simply can’t go on’, but you never know what’s around the corner.
What have your biggest challenges been with this show?
The biggest challenge for me has been the dancing. I went to drama school, which was many years ago, we didn’t really get much dancing. I love dancing, I’m a very good dancer but it’s not something that I’ve used over the years. So the minute someone says ‘You’re going to have to dance in this’ I think, ‘Oh, I’m not doing it!’ The boys helped me a lot, they were very sweet, they’d say ‘Keep your feet beneath you’; so they helped me and still do.
What’s it like working with the Billy’s?
I have four Billy’s, each different from the other, each hugely talented in their own way, and they’re all darling boys. They act wonderfully well, they’re helpful, and they laugh at me and my jokes.