Starring roles for pupils at Leeds arts school

Matthew Lyons pictured at a performance of  Billy Elliot The Musical.
Matthew Lyons pictured at a performance of Billy Elliot The Musical.
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TWO pupils at a west Leeds performing arts school have won starring roles on stage and screen.

The Guiseley-based West Yorkshire School of Performing Arts (WYSPA), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, has schooled hundreds of talented youngsters since it opened in the late 1980s.

Now two young pupils have secured starring roles that look set to propel them to major success.

Six years after his first dance lesson at WYSPA, Matthew Lyons, 11, of Yeadon, made his debut performance as Billy in the first ever UK and Ireland tour of Billy Elliot the Musical.

Matthew won a standing ovation after his performance at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Teachers at WYSPA recognised Matthew was talented at five-years-old when he attended a dance class with a friend.

WYSPA prinipal Karen Fawcett said: “Normally boys find it harder to follow the choreography than the girls do, but Matthew watches a routine and picks it up straight away and follows it.

Mrs Fawcett said Matthew’s story mirrors Billy’s in the musical, adding: “He is a boy from a working class family who came to a dance class and it has spiralled. To say we are proud of Matthew is an understatement.

“He has been on a massive journey but is now living his dream.”

The Billy Elliot the Musical tour will take Matthew all round the UK and will be at Bradford Alhambra from May 10 to June 11.

Meanwhile, six-year-old Max Vento, of Guiseley, has a starring role in new six-part BBC drama ‘The A Word’, which will be aired later this year on BBC One.

West Yorkshire School of Performing Arts pupil Max, of Guiseley, spent 14 weeks filming for new BBC drama ‘The A Word’ on location in the Lake District and Manchester.

He plays a boy diagnosed with autism in the show, which stars Christopher Eccleston and is set to be screened on BBC One later this year.

Max’s mother Sue Vento, 45, said: “Max has always loved singing and dancing, but we never realised he was a natural at acting. I was pinching myself when he got the role. Now he has had a taste of acting I personally feel he will want to carry on.” Mrs Fawcett said: “I took Max and Matthew to their auditions. It’s a full support we give to them. We have around 250 pupils and we are like one big family.

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