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Another leading role for Aubee Billie in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’

WEST PALM BEACH — One of these days Aubee Billie isn’t going to be shocked when she lands a leading role.

But that time hasn’t arrived yet for the budding young actress and singer from the Brighton Reservation.

As a sophomore at The King’s Academy prep school last spring, she surprised herself when she won the leading role as Kim in the school’s production of “Miss Saigon.”

Ditto as a junior this year when she earned the leading female role of Esmeralda in the school’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

“It’s crazy because I wasn’t expecting it all. Same with “Miss Saigon” because I wasn’t expecting to get it,” Billie said after her performance in the “Hunchback” on Nov. 7 as the show, which oozes with professional quality from its high school cast and everything else associated with it, including an orchestra, neared its final run.

“Hunchback,” the only school production Billie is doing this academic year, presented singing challenges for its female star.

Aubee Billie, center, performs as the gypsy Esmeralda in The King’s Academy production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which was held in November at the West Palm Beach school. (Photo Amber Loveland)

She worked with director David Snyder over the summer on expanding her vocal repertoire in order to successfully grasp the character.

“I usually belt a lot, like being loud, but soprano-wise, I’m not really good at that, so him building my soprano over the summer was the hardest part ever,” she said. “He was like, ‘Okay, Aubee, stop being loud.’ I’m like: ‘I’m sorry.’

“I think I figured it out.”

The audience concurred, judging by the energetic ovation she received at the end of the night.

As Esmeralda – a gypsy filled with good intentions – Billie deftly balanced a love interest with Captain Phoebus de Martin (Albert Elias) and a sympathetic concern for the well-being and life of Quasimodo (Christopher Santiago), the Hunchback who desperately needed a friend and found one in Esmeralda.

Billie’s characters in “Miss Saigon” and “Hunchback” shared common traits. They both featured her brandishing a weapon – she fired a gun in “Miss Saigon” and wielded a knife in “Hunchback.”

And although she inserted so much vitality and likeability into her characters, neither survived to see the curtain descend.

Esmeralda (Aubee Billie) is consoled by Captain Phoebus de Martin (Albert Elias) in The King’s Academy production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” (Photo Amber Loveland)

Billie, the current Jr. Miss Florida Seminole and daughter of Maria Billie and James E. Billie, said one difference between the two productions is that she felt more comfortable with her castmates in “Hunchback” thanks to getting to know many of them through “Miss Saigon.”

Trust created in “Miss Saigon” was cemented in “Hunchback.”

“Now during “Hunchback” it’s like we’re family. Me knowing everyone, it helps our stage presence so much,” said Billie, who is in her third year at the school.

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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