Music by: Sir Elton John
Lyrics by: Lee Hall
Author: Lee Hall
Director: Stephen Daldry
Choreographer: Peter Darling
Details: Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5EA
The great problem proposed by turning one of Britain’s best films into a musical, was the question of Billy: how does a young boy, as well as numerous other young cast members, dance continuously on stage for three hours? The answer: an ever-growing budget, songs written by Elton John, and serious training centre for young hopefuls in Northern England. Not to mention having three Billy Elliots.
Billy Elliot is nearly a masterpiece of coordination, expertly integrating the brilliant writing of Lee Hall, the graphic choreography of Peter Darling and the skilful directing of Stephen Daldry, all of whom worked on the film. Add the rugged young talents of James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower (the show’s three Billies), and the impeccable pop of Elton John, and the result is entirely too irresistible.
At the show I viewed, Liam Mower was shrugging off his boxing gloves for ballet class. Most impressive was his sheer endurance: the kid ran circles around the stage, switching effortlessly between ballet, tap, jazz and even gymnastics – and singing all the while. While the run of the production was early, and there were a few voice warbles, line steps and out of sync taps, it was still astoundingly smooth. Given the pressures of working with a cast where children outnumber adults, it is a feat in itself that the production flowed as seamlessly as it did.
More than anything, however, is the sentiment it promulgates. Amidst cheeky one-liners and a “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher” song and dance, is the sobering socio-economic trouble of Billy Elliot’s coal mining community and their future. The writers sew together political pitfalls with a little boy’s dreams, flawlessly hemmed by Darling’s choreography.
In the end, Billy Elliot helps reminds people why they like musicals in the first place: catchy music, lots of jokes, and some stunning dancing. Just watch as they dance and sing their way out of the dress circle.