Having recently celebrated a decade in the West End, Billy Elliot is certainly still going strong and so I finally thought it would be a good idea to see what all the hype was about…
Having navigated Victoria underground station (which to be frank is a nightmare to get out of – I thought I was going to be permanently lost), I felt a real buzz as I approached the theatre itself, wondering what the evening had in store.
Set during the 1984/1985 miner’s strike, Billy Elliot is the story of a boy who has to struggle against many obstacles to follow his dreams of becoming a dancer. The musical features the music of Elton John, who has recently revealed plans to make the musical into a film .
There was a few technical problems at the start of the evening but that was soon overcome after a short delay to proceedings the show began if rather tentatively and difficult to hear in places.
But it soon relaxed and the audience were soon dazzled by the stunning displays of dancing by all of the cast. Tap dance sequence such as during ‘Born to Boogie’ were excellently executed by Bradley Perret (Billy) and Tomi Fry (Michael) – filled with energy and enthusiasm.
I also felt myself feeling overwhelmed by the ballet sequence featuring Perret and Barnaby Meredith (Billy’s older self) which was so well choreographed that it provided one of the most beautiful moments in the show. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was out of sequence as a similar scene took place at the end of the film and it didn’t feel as though it fitted in properly at the place it was in the show.
The characters themselves were all very warm and likeable. But I had particular affection for Grandma (Gillian Elisa) whose forgetfulness but down-to-earth nature made me warm to her instantly. I also loved the performance of Tomi Fry as Michael, who provides a lot of the humour and has got a great sense of timing.
As for Bradley Perret as Billy – what an extraordinary amount of talent in that one person there is. There is nothing that he doesn’t do without giving it his all and it is to his credit that the audience was given a Billy who was believable and not at all pretentious, making it easy for us to root for him to be able to follow his dreams.
In all fairness it is a show about the younger performers and all of them were as equally talented (even if the language they had to use was appalling!!) and so much energy it was tiring just watching them, let alone what it must have been like for them performing.
The only thing that for me didn’t work so well was the miner strike element of the story. I felt that although the audience was aware of it, it didn’t really add anything to the main part of the plot which was Billy following his dreams – despite his family’s disapproval.
However, this shouldn’t distract from the fact that overall Billy Elliot is a warm-hearted and likeable show that should be enjoyed for what it is: a brilliant British musical.
There is plenty of humour and laughs throughout that will certainly keep a smile on your face constantly (my face was hurting by the end!) that will ensure that the show will keep on running for a very long time in the West End.
It is overall a brilliant and talent driven production that still feels fresh and relevant today. Thank you to Official Theatre for my ticket!