Writer &Lyrics: Lee Hall
Music: Elton Jon
Director: Stephen Daldry
Choreographer: Peter Darling
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Universal Stage Productions, Working Title Films and Old Vic Production are presenting Billy Elliot on its first UK Tour following a recent successful run in London. Bradford’s Alhambra theatre is the only Yorkshire venue on this tour. Lee Hall’s musical is based on the said title award winning 2000 film.
The story is set during the 1984/85 miners strike and is about a boy, Billy, who aspires to become a dancer after accidentally finding himself in a ballet class after his stint in the boxing ring. His dream is pursued dynamically and beautifully with an incredible performance and dancing from Matthew Lyons, a multi-talented young artist who is destined for bigger things in the future. The combination of tap and contemporary dancing and classical ballet interprets the wide range of emotions Billy experiences on his journey in Expressing Yourself, Born to Boogie and Angry Dance.
Billy’s dancing dream is under the tutelage of Mrs Wilkinson (Annette McLaughlin) and the spirit of his dead mother (Nikki Gerrard). It doesn’t go unnoticed by his immediate family despite their initial resistance and reservations. The family and villagers’ personal battles and goals are fought during the strike and political tensions and personal pride are at stake in the charged but catchy musical hits, Solidarity and Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher.
Billy Elliot appears to be one mean feat for the creative team to put together on stage. It takes a lot of planning and co-ordination to fit in the different activities happening the same time from the cast in each musical number. Full credit must go to Peter Darling and his choreography which links with the songs and storytelling.
Rick Fisher’s lighting compliments Ian Macneil’s sets. Lighting is tastefully emphasised with special effects in the dancing scenes particularly during Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Billy being partnered by his older self (Luke Cinque-White).
Hall brings out fully the political, social and economic context of the impact caused by the miners’ strike. With poignancy, there is hope from the talented Billy. The musical metaphorically and colourfully portrays the community fears and hopes with its local dialect, slang and innuendoes.
The young performances with Lyons being an outstanding Billy are the highlight and certainly performers to look out for in the future. As for the adult performers, it must be McLaughlin as Mrs Wilkinson who is a brash sharp-witted ballet tutor and believes in Billy’s extraordinary talent. Martin Walsh’s portrayal as Billy’s Dad is excellent and transitions well from being torn between showing solidarity among the miners and supporting his son’s future.
Billy Elliot, under the direction of Stephen Daldry, is set to Elton John’s music and Hall’s lyricsis an excellent dynamic colourful production from beginning to end when Billy enters and exits the stage from/to the auditorium. The energy and enthusiasm are palpable throughout the audience; spirited away to a mining community in the North East and a distant dancing world.
Due to the nature of the show, strong language is used and therefore may not be suitable for families with young children. The musical, however, raises themes, which are relevant today as much as then and how the strike changed the social landscape forever. If you want an entertaining show with a poignant twist,Billy Elliot is the one.
Touring Nationwide | Image:Alastair Muir