As a Swing in the original cast of & Juliet both in Manchester and the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre, Billy Nevers covers many roles including Lord Capulet, and during his time in the show so far, he has recorded the cast album and recently performed on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. With & Juliet currently on hold due to the pandemic, Billy was Ensemble and cover Simon in the Jesus Christ Superstar Concert at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre when outside performances were allowed to return in August, a show which he made his professional debut in at the Barbican in 2019. Over Christmas, Billy could be seen in NBC’s The Grinch Musical LIVE! which was filmed at the Troubadour Theatre in London and shown on TV in the UK on Sky One. We spoke to Billy about being an original cast member of & Juliet, returning to live theatre with Jesus Christ Superstar and being part of the online Turn Up concert.
You’ve recently completed your run in the Jesus Christ Superstar Concert at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, what was it like returning to live theatre?
After being in lockdown and questioning the return of theatre in 2020, it was so exciting to be a part of the first live show back in London. It was one of the most thrilling experiences seeing and feeling the energy of the audience throughout each show because every time you knew it was someone’s first experience back at the theatre.
How did the run go and what was it like being cast as Ensemble and cover Simon?
The run was physically very demanding due to the fact we were doing nine shows a week after four months of not performing, and nine shows a week, let me tell you, is HARD!!!!!! On the other hand, it was so rewarding and such a beautiful three months as everyone within the company was reunited with their passion. When being asked to be a part of this company I was extremely surprised as no one knew it was coming, so I was very excited and nervous because I was not ready to go from zero to Drew McOnie with one week’s notice. This time I had the opportunity to cover Simon which I didn’t get to do the first time doing this show so that was very exciting also.
You’d previously performed in the show in 2019, how was this?
When we did the show at the Barbican in 2019 it was my first professional job so I was like a deer in headlights, but a very excited one at that. I was seventeen when we started rehearsals and had just finished my BTEC course so it was a huge change of environment. I had the chance to perform at West End Live that year also which was so crazy as I had always wanted to do it.
What have you enjoyed the most so far about being Swing in & Juliet?
I never thought I had the mental capacity to be a swing on a large-scale production so the whole contract was a big masterclass in swinging/covering. It was always so exciting being able to play and perform as multiple different people.
How did it feel booking your role in the original cast of the production and can you tell us what roles you’ve covered?
I was doing JCS at the time of auditioning for & Juliet. The audition process was unnaturally quick as they needed someone to start immediately so I had my first audition on the Friday and went back in the morning after and by 11 o’clock on the Saturday I knew I had the job and was starting the following Monday. I then did two shows and had one day to prep, so it was all very quick, crazy and unexpected but I wouldn’t change that timeline of events for the world. I covered six tracks in & Juliet and I went on for all of them, including Lord Capulet (Juliet’s father) which was a hilarious couple of shows for me and the rest of the cast as I am the baby of the cast.
Do you have any stand-out moments from performing with the musical?
Some of my stand-out moments from performing in the show are things like – recording the cast album, performing on This Morning and Strictly Come Dancing and the WhatsOnStage Awards, being nominated for nine Oliviers, but I think the highlight for me was working closely with Max Martin as he is such a legend and I admire all of his work, and also the celebrities we met because of him such as Katy Perry, Jessie J, Ed Sheeran and my favourite, the Jonas Brothers (I’m a Disney kid at heart).
Can you say about being Swing and cover Twig in Bring it On at Southwark Playhouse?
This was my first experience covering of any sort so I had the best time doing this show and got to go on so many times, especially for Twig and that was wonderful.
How did you find the experience performing at the London Palladium for An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth?
OMG! Doing this was immense. We were at college (ArtsEd) one day and our Head of Music came in to our lessons and said that the school were holding auditions for a choir to perform with Kristin Chenoweth and me being the uneducated sixteen year old I was, didn’t really know who she was but all my friends seemed excited so I was ready to audition. I later found out that I did know A LOT of her work from Glee and Wicked so I was very happy when I found out I would be doing the concert. We arrived on the day at The Palladium and met her and her team and she was just so wonderful and nice. The audience was crazy and it was my first experience on a West End stage like that so it was a beautiful evening.
You were in the ensemble of The Color Purple Concert at Cadogan Hall, what was this like?
This has to be one of my favourite nights performing so far. It was such an incredible evening performing an incredible show that meant so much to the whole cast. It was an all black cast which made it extremely special.
As part of National Youth Music Theatre, you played Reinhold in Spring Awakening, can you tell us about this?
The National Youth Music Theatre is a place that I love dearly as it gave me so many opportunities of professional level productions at a young age. Spring Awakening was by far my favourite. I got to perform at the Leicester Curve and work with Nikolai Foster and Lee Proud which was just incredible. In the cast was Grace Mouat and Tim Mahendran, who are now in & Juliet with me four years later.
Had you always wanted a career in theatre and how did you start?
Always! Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to be a performer. My family are all lovers of the arts so it was only right for me to be one. I did my first show at the age of two-and-a-half and caught the theatre bug. I used to watch the Hairspray film everyday after school and The Wizard of Oz was always on when I was with my grandparents. I actually was cast as the leader of the lollipop guild in The Wizard of Oz at the Royal Festival Hall when I was seven which, from what I can remember (which is not a lot), was great fun.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
I absolutely love The Prom! I am obsessed with the soundtrack and the new film on Netflix. I’m desperate for it to come to London and I’m secretly praying I’m in it!!
How was it being part of the online Turn Up concert?
What can I say about the Turn Up concert. It was sublime. One of my dearest friends Nicole Raquel Dennis co-produced it with the incredible Ryan Carter so I was so excited to be a part of it. It came at such a difficult time for all black people and it did exactly what it needed to do, highlight the black voices in theatre and represent them in their truest and correct form. It was wonderful and inspirational. I hope it can happen again in 2021. BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Apart from the Turn Up concert, can you tell us about some other projects you’ve been involved with while theatres have been closed?
I was a part of the cast of NBC’s The Grinch Musical LIVE! which was such a wonderful experience and was made so incredible by the amazing cast involved. We were like a family and had to live together which made it even more special. I got to work with legends like Matthew Morrison, Denis O’Hare and Booboo Stewart. It was immense.
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