TIME Theater

‘Balloon Boy’ Hoax Inspires a Prize-Winning Musical 

Fake story, real theater.

A musical inspired by the news cycle’s fascination with “Balloon Boy,” the 2009 hoax about a six-year-old boy who was reported to have been whisked away by a weather balloon in Colorado, has received recognition at the national level.

Billy Reece, 16, a Long Island resident and high school student, recently won a prize for best opening number for a musical as part of a Musicalworks contest hosted by the Educational Theater Association’s Thespian Festival. That song is “Follow Your Dreams,” a catchy tune that tells the story of a megalomaniacal father with lyrics like “We are a special family… we are a family searching for something… we seek fame.”

“I thought it was funny, but there was also something so human about it,” Reece said of the Balloon Boy saga. In fact, the idea of the Balloon Boy musical is so good that it actually existed years ago as a parody on the humor website McSweeney’s.

Mentors will help Reece develop the production, and he will get to stage an excerpt at the five-day festival, which starts next week at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

As for the real balloon boy, Falcon Heene, he has also turned to music, starting the Metallica-influenced trio HeeneBoyz with his two older brothers. Maybe they can play in the orchestra pit?

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