Billy Elliot

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This week, Becky Wicks went to see the fabulous new show - Billy Elliot - to see some serious West End toe tapping action.

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Billy Elliot Dances Towards Success

Billy Elliot So Elton seems to have a knack for bringing the house down, and although he wasn't present at The Victoria Palace Theatre last night, his soul was most definitely heard. Through the mouths of a hugely energetic cast came the unmistakable words and emotions of a musical legend, renowned for tugging at the heartstrings of every generation.


Based on the film of the same name, Billy Elliot - The Musical reunites the talents of writer Lee Hall, producer Jon Finn and director Stephen Daldry. Set in a small Northern town at the heart of the 80's miner's strike there's much in the way of the freedom Billy craves, and just like many pre-pubescent boys when the hormones are raging, he struggles to express himself clearly. There's upheaval in his male-dominated household, not helped by the pressure on the picket lines. But when Billy swaps his boxing gloves for ballet shoes he discovers that dancing gives him freedom.

Peter Darling's choreography is breathtaking in parts - especially in a scene where a frustrated Billy takes out his anger by bouncing ballerina style off a barrage of police shields on the picket lines. Although strangely it wasn't the dancing that I'll remember the most. It's been five years since I saw the film and to be perfectly honest, I'd forgotten the simple yet gripping message of hope that lies at the heart of Billy's story.

The most moving scene for me was not when Billy and his dance instructor, Mrs Wilkinson, sing with lump-in-throat lethargy the contents of a letter left by Billy's dead mother; although, I did hear a few sniffles. Rather it was when his otherwise senile grandmother remembers with heart-warming sincerity, detail and passion, what it felt like to dance with her husband. Before he died the alcoholic "never lifted a finger", and was pretty much a "w***er", except when he'd twirl her around to music in his arms. She admits that could she live it all again she'd be just as drunk and just as carefree, and her song is a bittersweet reminder of how we all live for love, take it for granted and forget all too easily how fast we can lose it.

Aside from the weepy reality checks, Billy Elliot is hugely amusing. The contrast between Londoners at the Royal Ballet School and Billy's Northern working class father is hilarious, as is a scene where Billy's soon-to-be-known-as-gay best friend introduces him to the joys of dressing in women's clothing. "What we need is individuality", he tells him as they tap dance amongst giant floral dresses and ball gowns, wearing lipstick.

At a time when the dust from the last election has only just settled, the anti-Tory anger at the heart of the miners' despair rang especially loud around the theatre. A scene in which a rowdy Christmas party is overruled by a giant Spitting Image-esque Margaret Thatcher had everyone sniggering in their seats.

Where some moments in Billy Elliot can only be labeled as pure musical cheese, others are unforgettably unique. Where props and scenery are somewhat uninspiring, metaphors bring to light all the imagery that's needed. A scene in which Billy's remarkable talents are realised has him quite literally soaring high above the stage in a harness. He's helped by a mysterious, muscle-clad ballet god, who surely epitomises everything the young boy aspires to become.

In this scene, shadows emphasise the enviably toned physique of the fully trained stranger and the clever lighting makes Billy's swan diving absolutely beautiful to behold.

There's something for everyone in this show and all in all this effort will surely be a huge West End success. But no matter what the critics say, once word gets out about the three cute and talented Billy boys currently playing the lead, it's safe to presume the teenage girls will fill the seats faster than their mum's at an Elton John concert.

by Becky Wicks, Newsletter Editor

 

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