I won't lie, if somebody asked me to name my top 5 actors, I wouldn't hesitate in putting Connor Doyle right up there. Since the first time I saw him perform in the role of Michael in Billy Elliot the Musical, I knew that he was something special. For me he really stood out from the crowd. You just need to look back over the previous Billy blogs to see what high regard I held him in. So it goes without saying that I was gutted when it was announced he would be leaving after just six months in the show.
All be it he left for the right reasons and on good terms. But there, at least for me would be a huge hole left behind in the show that his performances used to dominate. I have said it so many times before. You don't have to be in the leading role to be the best performer on stage. Connor grabbed every opportunity he had to make a bold statement with his acting. He confronted the role with such determination and dedication, it was evident right from the very first performance, he had no intentions of being second best. Hell, he even learned to tap dance especially for the role, unlike most boys casted in the show who have a history in dance of some sort. Yet the amazing thing was that if you watched him you could have easily believed he had been doing it for years!
The thing with acting is that you can only be taught so much. The rest of a performance relies on what comes naturally to a performer. This is where Connor always came through. He has such a vibrant personality which always shines when on stage. He comes across as the kind of guy who loves making people laugh, and putting smiles on their faces. Such charisma made him perfect for the role of Michael. I saw him something like 13 times, and not once did he ever have a bad show.
Honestly I don't think they could have casted anyone better for the role if they tried! When Lewis Cope left the show after 2 years in the role, I thought it would be impossible to replace him. He was amazing, and left such huge shoes to fill! Then along came Connor. He was the perfect replacement, he bought to life the role in the same way Lewis had managed to over the previous two years. I guess on this occasion lightning did strike twice... there was someone just as good as Lewis. But can that happen again? I am not so sure. There will be a huge void which Connor and previously Lewis have left behind. Honestly I don't think will ever be filled, well at least not in the same way that these two talented actors had managed.
Ok, its true people come and people go. As it happens Connor shared his last night with about seven other cast members including Anabelle as Debbie and Stephanie as "dead mum" and various members of the ensemble. But just like the changing of the seasons, its something that happens. Most of the time you just move on forgetting the faces that once dominated the stage before you. That isn't quite true for Connor however. I've seen the show a few times since his departure and it seems to lack the big personality he had.
I only had the opportunity to talk to Connor twice during his stint in the show, both times he demonstrated what a great guy that he was. Really polite, friendly and taken back by the support his fans showed him. He wasn't afraid to give a little something back either. He would regularly spot out his fans and wave to them as the curtain fell. It makes a huge difference when you feel noticed. It was even nicer for me, seeing as he is one of my acting inspirations. I've been asked a couple of times, how can someone so young be an inspiration alongside the likes of Jon Robyns and John Barrowman. All I can say is, had you watched him perform you would understand. I just hope I can bring to the stage a personality like Connor's when I finally get onto the big stage!
So what is next for Connor? Someone close to him once told me that if Connor is determined to do something nothing will stand in his way. That tells me its not the last we have heard from him. I just hope he returns to the West End sooner rather than later. As its a much lonelier and boring place without him. He has left a mark on a fantastic show, that will be impossible to erase. I can't help but think the benchmark he has set will be difficult to even come close to for quite some time to come.
Finally a picture of me and the legend himself. Thanks Connor and good luck in whatever you go on to do in life!