Kurt Froman is Billy Elliot—and so much more
by Donalevan Maines
One of two gay twin brothers coaches three boy dancers who alternate in the title role of Billy Elliot the Musical, a show so big that it is taking two theater giants to bring its national tour to Houston, February 23–March 13. Kurt Froman, who grew up in Fort Worth with his twin Kyle, is the show’s resident choreographer, and he understudies the role of Older Billy in the musical’s most soaring scene when Billy takes flight.
Billy Elliott the Musical, with music by Elton John, is based on the 2000 movie that won Oscar nominations for director Stephen Daldry and writer Lee Hall. They teamed up with John for the stage version of the story about an English coal miner’s son who bucks heads with his father when he wants to study ballet, not boxing.
Froman said that he and his brother faced the same resistance from their father. “We enjoyed dance class from day one, but our father was adamantly against it,” says Froman. “I think we kept going to spite him. Part of our struggle was convincing him, and ourselves, that just because we wanted to be dancers didn’t mean we were going to be gay.” It was easier for the twins not to tell their classmates that after school they headed to dance class for several hours. “It was almost an embarrassment to me, that people would think I was jumping around in a tutu,” says Froman.
In contrast, he says, the young actors in Billy Elliott the Musical “have no hang-ups” about the show’s themes or the role of Billy’s gay friend Michael, who likes dressing up in his sister’s clothes. “It makes me very happy that they don’t feel ‘less than’ because they like dancing.”
Michael’s big number, Expressing Yourself, gives Billy the courage to follow his dream of secretly preparing to audition for the Royal Ballet School with dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson, played by Faith Prince. She won a Tony Award as best actress in a musical when she played Adelaide in the popular 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls.
Speaking of awards, Froman was assistant choreographer and dance coach for Natalie Portman in Black Swan, the movie for which she won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Movie (Drama). Froman’s fingers are crossed that he’ll get a nod from Portman if she wins the Academy Award on February 27. “It was incredible to get to work with Darren Aronofsky,” said Froman, a fan of the Black Swan director since he debuted with Pi. “For him to stop and ask me a question based on my dancing expertise was fantastic. The movie is such a wild trip, and I appreciate its portrayal of the drive to be perfect, the endless pursuit of the unattainable.”
Froman and his brother were one of 27 sibling pairs featured in the book Twins by Ruth and Rachel Sandweiss and photographed by David Fields. The Fromans danced four years together at Fort Worth Ballet before moving to New York City to enroll in the prestigious School of American Ballet.
Kyle Froman came out in his early 20s when he announced that he was in a romance with another man. He’s since left dancing for photography and married a Canadian who was a political reporter. Kurt Froman waited several more years before coming out. “I didn’t want to follow on his coattails. I didn’t want it to be ‘I’m gay, too.’” Now 34 (turning 35 on March 11), Froman said he’s had a partner for eight years. “I adore him,” said Froman, who made his Broadway debut in Movin’ Out in 2002.
Froman appeared in the pilot of the TV series Ugly Betty (“In my close-up, I looked her up and down and scoffed at her,” he laughs), and he played “a go-go boy, bare-chested in a skimpy blue bottom” in a Saturday Night Live skit in which he handed a flute of champagne to Maya Rudolph as Donatella Versace at a Super Bowl party. In the 2007 Julie Taymer film Across the Universe, Froman said, he stripped down to his underwear as an inductee in the military and carried a model of the Statue of Liberty to the tune of the Beatles song I Want You.
What: Billy Elliot the Musical, co-presented by Theatre Under the Stars and Gexa Energy Broadway
When: February 23–March 13
Where: Sarofim Hall at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby
Tickets: $24–$84, available at
thehobbycenter.org or 713/315-2525,
tuts.com, or broadwayacrossamerica.com
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.