Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Victoria Palace Theatre with some lovely theatre bloggers to see Billy Elliot, all thanks to Official Theatre!
I first saw Billy Elliot just under a year ago and remember being absolutely enthralled by it, so I’m not sure why I’d yet to make a return visit to see the show again!
Billy Elliot is now celebrating it’s tenth year in the West End and it’s incredibly easy to see why the show is still going strong – it really appeals to everyone whether you’re a regular theatre-goer or not.
If you haven’t seen the film of Billy Elliot and perhaps have never heard anything about it, I’ll give you a little synopsis. The narrative predominantly follows a young boy, Billy, who discovers a new passion for dance after his Saturday morning boxing classes. While the show focus’ on Billy and his love of dance there are also many social and political issues happening in the mid-80s. The show is set in a mining town in Northern England which at the time was facing a miner’s strike under the political reign of Margaret Thatcher. SO there was a lot going on!
When I say the show appeals to everyone, it really does. There’s moments of pure comedy, beautiful choreography, fantastic stuckinyourheadforweeks songs and absolute tearjerkers as well. Understandably it’s a show where you’ll see a lot of tourists in the audience because is it worthily considered as a classic show in the West End, despite the heavy Northern accent and British quips the morals in it are understood and loved by all.
The boys playing Billy alternate for each show I believe, and for this show we got to see Brodie Donougher in the role. His performance as Billy was absolutely superb; considering he’s only eleven years old Brodie’s skills in singing, acting and dancing are astonishing!Billy’s partner in crime Michael was performed by Todd Bell who was so fabulous especially during Expressing Yourself which is his standout number. Other hilarious moments can be found whenever Billy’s Grandma (Gillian Elisa) is onstage. There’s also Mrs. Wilkinson (Ruthie Henshall) the ballet teacher who is caring at the most important moments but in general has a strong ‘take no prisoners attitude’ – especially with her pupils!
While his love of dance is kept secret for a while, when Billy begins to show a huge talent for ballet his father eventually finds out and we the audience witness how he decides to deal with this knowledge in a time where ballet is considered a girls pass time. Billy’s dad, played by Deka Walmsley, is part of the miner’s strike so at this time is dealing with the political and social conflict this event brought to the town as well as being a single parent after the death of his wife. To then be faced with his son loving something periodically controversial adds another ‘conflict’ to his life so it’s very interesting watching his character development throughout the show. Very strong and incredible acting from Mr. Walmsley right there!
Personally my favourite performance in the show came from Ruthie Henshall with her comedic timing and high energy, she’s a terrific actress and perfect in this role – I was thrilled to see that she’d be extending her contract in the role!
Last but not least I need to talk about the music in this show. If you don’t walk out of this theatre with at least one song stuck in your head I’ll be very impressed, because I know I had Solidarity mentally on repeat for about a week. I’d also forgotten just how heartbreaking The Letter was (and it’s reprise even moreso). Thankfully I’m a good silent crier because those songs got me!
You don’t leave the show on a downer though, as (spoiler!) the final number coinciding with the bows is an all singing all dancing one which involves the whole cast! This I love because it shows just how talented every single cast member is, they’re all tap dancing and singing their hearts out, eight shows a week!
If you’re looking for an all round brilliant show to go and see, I’d highly recommend Billy Elliot for sure. It’ll leave you singing, laughing and wishing you’d taken ballet lessons as a child!
Billy Elliot is on at the Victoria Palace Theatre Monday-Saturday (Thursday matinees) and more information/tickets can be found at http://www.billyelliotthemusical.com/