Billy Elliot The Musical Jumps on Stage in Good Form

billy1It’s 1984 and young Billy has been forced to decide between making his father and family happy by growing up as an average small-town fighting boy that frequents boxing class or rather follow his dreams by not following the status quo and joining ballet class. His adventurous yet secret plan to train as a dancer may be the only way to unite his coal-mining town under union dispute.

Billy Elliot The Musical follows the battle of a boy who must face his ignorant family of meat-head men who only believe ballet is for sissy’s and a grandmother who stars as the beginning motivation for Billy to go toward the right direction. The story truly deals with relationships between Billy (currently alternating between Ben Cook, Drew Minard, Noah Parets and Mitchell Tobin) and his family at home of his dad (Rich Herbert), grandmother (Patti Perkins), and brother, Tony (Cullen R. Titmas).

The aspiring ballet dancer quickly begins ballet class when he stays late after boxing practice.  Here he meets offbeat teacher Mrs. Wilkinson (Janet Dickinson).  Meanwhile he finds support from unique, one-of-a-kind, eccentric friend Michael (Sam Poon) and a group of ballerinas all while struggling with the recent death of his mother.

As Billy hides his passion for ballet and sneakily takes his ballet lessons, his father and the rest of the community has been in a large battle between the British National Union of Mineworkers and Margaret Thatcher whom wants to destroy the unions.  This has brought the town to shambles. It will ultimately come down to a decision for Billy’s family to decide if this is the best path for him to take.

The musical is based off the internationally acclaimed film by the same name; however the stage production was of course adapted as a musical. Billy Elliot the Musical is the winner of 81 awards worldwide including best musical awards in London and Australia and of course ten 2009 Tony Awards.

With that being said, I actually was not aware of much about the show. I have seen the movie, but had no idea of the music style or even who composed the score. Psst… it was Elton John.  This always makes a show more exciting for me and yet can give me doubts as well. I really didn’t know how Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Working Title Films, Old Vic Productions and NETworks Presentations, LLC. would be able to capture the raw emotion delivered in much of the film.

Little did I give thought about how the musical adaptation could build emotion just with the music let alone add to areas in which the movie was weak.  There were some pretty memorable parts of the film that the audience misses out on in the stage production. A perfect example would be the incredible tear-jerking moment in the bathroom with Mrs. Wilkinson and Billy as he yells at her for pushing him through ballet only to end up falling into the brace of her arms as both cry. Of course the availability of close-ups definitely help, but I saw a lack of tension here and almost felt the importance of this scene was hardly touched upon.

I was also hoping for a better climactic moment when Billy’s dad finally sees him practicing his large ballet number. Unfortunately that moment still feels abundantly anticlimactic. This isn’t to say the scene isn’t still notably amazing and powerful in its own right. In fact, every large dance number by Billy (Mitchell Tobin performed the night reviewed) was absolutely breathtaking!  There is also several dance numbers and a bit of a montage scene with the ballerinas from Billy’s class that were dare I say, adorable, yet also quite comical while still proving most talented.

It was the moment where the set was completely, and quickly, transformed during a big tap-dance spectacular that had me saying “wow” and smiling from ear-to-ear. Ian MacNeil did a fantastic job creating a believable scenic design with many creative elements within in a small space while being able to give the illusion of full immersion. Of course the captivating story, music and lighting help set the mood as well.

Billy2The first act, 84-minutes-long by the way, builds a great amount of momentum as the musical numbers build larger and larger with a very creative and powerful act-one finale. I couldn’t help but just say “yes” to Billy Elliot at the end act-one. The momentum continues in act-two, but loses itself after the first two numbers. There may just be a little too much intended awkward pauses that appear unclean and imprecise.  Some of these moments are creating comical moments however are lost by the reaction of the performers.  There were areas that I felt would have benefited from some over-the-top performances.  I definitely felt Mrs. Wilkinson character could be a little more outlandish, but instead I felt they were holding back.

Luckily there really isn’t anything major to express concern about. It was even a challenge to bring up the few negative comments above as Billy Elliot truly was phenomenal. The performances by most were strong and memorable. It’s the children that really make this show though. You won’t get over at how talented these young performers are.  It’s not a short show, but I left wanting more! More of the emotion, the singing, and most definitely the dancing!  Billy Elliot brings delivers that little spark that we should do what we love and not listen to what others have to say about it. Yet there are many underlying subplots that aren’t terribly deep, but add to the show. Billy Elliot is undoubtedly an exciting time at the theatre that remains entertaining from start to finish.

Be careful bringing children as there is some bad language, but just remind them that it’s Northern England in 1984.

Follow more of my adventures throughout Southern California on Twitter @OCescapism.

Billy Elliot The Musical is now playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Segerstrom Hall

April 16 – 28, 2013

Tuesday – Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

The 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, April 27 will include audio description, open captioning and sign-language interpretation.

Tickets start at $20

For more information visit scfta.org

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