Billy Elliot is no ordinary musical. Going from big screen smash to multi award-winning stage show, the story has touched the nation and has been bought to life for the first time at the regions Birmingham Hippodrome. Emma Iannarilli went along to the press performance, this is what she thought.
The story of a 12 year old boy, growing up in a masculine household surrounded by miners during the 1984/85 Miners strike. with dreams of being a ballet star, does not sound like the recipe for a classic night of entertainment. But Billy Elliot is a musical that turns the conventions on their head.
The children steal the show, and swear more than the adults, scenes are played through the haze of ever present cigarette smoke – no issue in the pre smoking ban 1980s. Musical numbers range from hilariously funny, to sombre and moving. And, at the heart of it all is Billy Elliot himself, the boy who becomes a beacon of hope in an area where it has been decimated by Thatcher’s Britain. Billy Elliot is the greatest British Musical of all.
Right from the opening, as the strike is declared, we are faced with a musical like no other., hard hitting and volatile,the characters are shown in their anger, juxtaposed with the innocence of children who are having to grow up too soon. As we laugh at the awkwardness and, let’s be honest, awfulness of the young ballerinas, we see the violent clashes between the miners and the police escalating just outside the doors as the violence and tensions increase, illustrated in particular by Billy’s brother Tony, brilliantly played by Scott Garnham. If all this sounds brutal and hard hitting, it is also balanced by superb humour, whether it be from Billy’s nan hiding her pasties and doing a fine line in rude words and gestures, or Billy’s best friend Michael introducing him to cross dressing (his dad is always doing it apparently), There are also super
funny scenes that are dominated by the glamorous but jaded Mrs Wilkinson, trying to get her hopeless dance troupe ready to shine, or at least put one foot in front of the other. It is a fantastic masterclass from Annette McLaughlin, caustic and cutting but filled with heart.
Billy was played by the enormously talented Lewis Smallman. His performance was one of brilliance. Unlike Jamie Bell in the film role, the part of Billy calls for a boy who can not only dance in a range of styles, but can sing and act too. Smallman creates a wonderfullu loveable Billy, who is capable of making you laugh out loud, but will also break your heart. He has your sympathy throughout, the performance is not showy, somehow it always feels real, and that makes it all the more powerful.
The songs of Elton John, are incredible, highlights being the heartbreaking lament of ‘The Letter’ and its reprise, and the Dante’s Inferno style staging of ‘Angry Dance’, complete with smoke and red skies. It is also a stunning moment when Billy dances with his older self in Swan Lake, a stunning turn from Luke Cinque-White.
Billy Elliot, the must see musical!
Click HERE to book tickets or call Birmingham Hippodrome on 0844 338 5000, the show is running till Saturday April 29th.
Read more from Emma’s blog at www. fashion-mommy.com