Main Image: Billy (centre) with Andrew O’Keefe and Nancy Hayes ( Nick Morrissey)
I’m not sure how many careers have been launched with the Australian version of the 12 Days of Christmas, but for a two-year old Billy Bourchier it was the beginning of a life on the stage.
Performing at a church Christmas pageant under the moniker of Billy and the Big Boys was where it all started for the Canberra born, and now Brisbane based talent. By verse five he was hooked and he hasn’t looked back.
Throughout his childhood Billy performed in a range of community theatre productions, but it wasn’t until Grade 11 that he really thought seriously about a career in musicals. Having come to Brisbane to attend the Queensland Conservatorium’s Tertiary Preparation Program, it was then that his heart was set on the stage.
“That’s when I decided I wanted to be in the creative industries; theatre was something I loved, it was my passion so I decided to take the risk and move up to Brisbane.”
Billy told 96five that he was lucky enough to land his initial jobs immediately after completing a Bachelor of Musical Theatre at the Queensland Conservatorium.
“I missed my graduation as I was lucky enough to be selected to perform at the QPAC Spirit of Christmas concert, and that was my first professional gig. From there I had my breakout role in Pirates of Penzance with the Harvest Rain Theatre Company, playing Frederic. I was quite fortunate that straight out of university there were a few jobs going; quite often that’s not the case.”
Even The Darkest Night Will End
Billy is quick to point out that there’s no laurel resting; maintaining a career in musical theatre requires dedication and a lot of hard work.
“It’s a tough gig and I think a lot of people don’t see that – they see the fun and the parties and to a degree there’s an element of that. There’s also a big element of a lot of hard work that can go down the drain when you put in weeks of work for an audition and then hear nothing back.”
With a huge part of theatre life revolving around auditions and the pressure that brings, it’s no wonder that there’s huge mental health challenges for those in the performing arts.
“The mental health issues are higher than any other industry; it’s the terms of the unknown – when’s my next job going to be? A vast majority of the industry aren’t making enough money to support themselves from their chosen field. A big part of being a performer is being happy going into an audition and not being successful.”
Having travelled the country and the globe with shows like Candide, The Book of Mormon and Les Misérable, Billy is pragmatic about the impact if has on family life.
“What can seem like an exciting time can actually be quite lonely when you’re overseas. Skype becomes your best friend, and it’s important to make the time to connect with family and friends. I’m quite lucky in that I’m surrounded by wonderful family, especially my wife, who’s really good at bringing me back to earth!”
Still Calls Australia Home
Despite his success and the call of overseas markets like Broadway and the West End in London, Billy is thrilled to still be performing in Australia. He reckons there’s something special about Aussie audiences!
“Australian audiences really appreciate the art and the culture that comes with music theatre and live performance, in a different way than they do in New York or London.”
When he’s not on tour Billy also loves giving back to the industry by supporting and mentoring local up and coming talent. His upcoming show at Underground Broadway in Paddington will feature the best of Broadway, as well as a host of new and emerging performers.
You can also expect to hear some of the tunes that Billy has sung during his career, as well as some numbers sung by roles that he’ll never get to play!
“The songs have a real deep connection to my story and to my journey as a performer, and I’m so looking forward to sharing that with the Brisbane audience.”
Billy Bourchier is presenting The Corner of Brisbane and Broadway, this Monday February 24th from 7:30pm. It’s on at Underground Broadway, downstairs at the Paddo Tavern.