Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Billy Elliot: the Musical

Tonight was another University of Westminster event, seeing the musical Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre at London's West End.

Based on a movie that came out in 2000 of the same name, the show opened on the West End in 2005.  It was nominated for 9 Olivier Awards (like the Tony Awards) and won four, including Best New Musical.  In 2008, it opened on Broadway, where it won ten Tony Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards, including best musical in both cases.  The music was written by Elton John, and it definitely shows in some of the pieces.

The basic premise of the show follows 12 year old Billy Elliot who accidentally crashes a ballet class after his boxing lessons.  For some strange reason, he continues to go back for lessons from the...unconventional instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson.  Billy has a definite talent for ballet, but things just aren't that easy.  While all of this is going on, his father and brother are caught up in the 1984-1985 coal miner's strike.  The strike basically broke out because the government wanted to close down some of the mines, which would put thousands of people out of a job.  Think of what happened in Michigan with the car industry, so many people relied on the mines for a living.  The strike eventually ended, and it was seen as a victory for English government and Margaret Thatcher, so the miners lost.  That's the Reader's Digest version of the strike, it's far more complicated than that.  So, while young Billy Elliot is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, the very foundation of his village threatens to collapse.

Since the show is about a dancer, you automatically expect the choreography and dancing to be pretty good.  What I saw tonight was amazing!  The actor who played Billy Elliot couldn't have been more than 15, maybe 16 years old, and he was phenomenal.  He had three huge dance numbers, two were more or less solos, while the third was a duet with his "older self."   Below is a video of the choreography of that dance to another song from the musical called "Electricity."

Below is a video of the actual dance with the choreography, although it's not the Billy Elliot we saw.  What makes this performance of the show that I saw so amazing was the wonderful audience (besides the loud girls sitting behind us, but I told them to be quiet...three times).  I mean, they laughed at every single joke (the show's HILARIOUS), and they were completely enthusiastic about every number.  After the actor did his routine for "Electricity," the audience gave him a standing ovation, and he broke character and began to cry.  I couldn't figure out if he was in character or not when he was crying, but he was crying again at the curtain call when he got another standing ovation (both of which he rightfully deserved), so I'm pretty sure those were real tears.  I have a feeling that this boy is going to go far in his musical theater career, he's definitely got the talent.

Well, it's almost midnight here, and I have another long day ahead of me tomorrow.  Keep posted for even more adventures.


  1. Great post! I checked, and that Billy is actually 12! Unbelievable!

    1. 12!? Usually they cast older (when I saw Hairspray, Little Ines was like 20ish), so that's why I said that. That's out of this world!