Billy Elliot The Musical Review
Having seen the film countless times and the musical several times before, I knew I was in for an entertaining show watching Billy Elliot the Musical!
The musical is set in Durham during the harsh political and financial climate of 1984/85 when Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, took on the Miner’s Union and the miners went on strike in protest. Times were tough for the working class and the strikes affected not only the whole community but the country.
The story of the musical follows how Billy Elliot finds an escape in ballet during a difficult time, as his father and brother are miners on strike. Despite initial disapproval from his family, Billy continues with his passion and auditions for the Royal Ballet School, which could change his life completely. This powerful storyline is complemented by Elton John’s passionate music and Peter Darling’s striking choreography.
The ensemble really make this show something special. They play the characters of miners, police and children, which intertwine in spectacular dance sequences (including my favourite between the police and the young ballet dancers). Spectacular but tragic as they only further emphasise how much the political climate affects everyone in the community. Dance is used to express the narrative and becomes a release for Billy (played on the night by the incredibly talented Ryan Collinson) to express his emotions.
Despite the gloomy backdrop of the strike, the musical contains a number of comical scenes and carefully timed jokes. Including Billy’s best friend Michael’s ( Michael played by Reece Barratt on the night) number “Expressing Yourself”, where the two boys dress up in Michael’s mum’s frocks. This song carries the strong notion that “…everyone is different, it’s the natural state” and shows that the community still has spirit. Another scene that masks some of the underlying sadness with humour is “We’d Go Dancing”, sung by Billy’s Grandma (played by Ann Emery) and danced by the male ensemble. In supporting Billy’s new found interest, Grandma reveals how much she used to love to dance.
Gillian Bevan played by Mrs Wilkinson (Billy’s dance teacher) as a supporting but tough woman. She encourages Billy to pursue his talent and is more than willing to stand up to his family. Bevan shows Mrs Wilkinson’s motherly affections as Billy grows to trust and enjoy the company of a mother-like figure. Along with Billy and Mr Braithwaite played by Simon Ray Harvey, the trio perform an impressive number “Born to Boogie”. This number shows the fun Billy gains from dance and how he can escape from the harsh backdrop.
The Elliot family is beautifully played but the intense connection between Billy’s Dad (played by Deka Walmsley) and Billy’s older brother, Tony, (played by Michael Peavoy) intrigues me the most. Both are miners in constant protest and riots with the police, strong in their stance. However, when Mr Elliot decides to return to work (and breaks the strike) to provide financial support for Billy’s dream, Tony becomes infuriated. The pair argue in the number “He Could Be a Star” and Tony reminds his father how the miners must stay united.
A superb British musical with a powerful storyline, guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings. An absolute must-see!
Reviewed by Kayleigh
Updated 17th October 2014