Arts & Culture

Billy is Boffo!

Harry Hamm
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harry star 4andahalfstars Billy is Boffo!

Opening the 96th season of The Muny with “Billy Elliot” was a supreme challenge, but in the end it made me wonder if The Muny hadn’t saved the best for first?

Bill 2

Picture courtesy of The Muny

If you haven’t seen it before, the initial thing you need to understand about “Billy Elliot” is that it’s about a poor miner’s family during the great coal miner’s strike in north-eastern England around 1984 & 1985. Certainly the character of Billy, played in this company by 14-year-old Tade Biesinger from Bountiful, Utah, is central to the story as the entire drama (Yes, I said drama) is seen primarily through his eyes. Biesinger is a veteran of “Billy Elliot,” having appeared in the show on Broadway and in London. He is a natural for the role, a talented youngster with a certain wisdom and faith beyond his years. His role is very much an acting part as well as dancing, and Tade embraces it all beautifully and with joy. His understudy is Myles Erlick. I watched Erlick dance in a rehearsal and he brought the cast to their feet in applause. Needless to say, the role of Billy is well covered at The Muny this week.

Bill 4

Picture courtesy of The Muny

There is so much to like about this production that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Billy 10

Picture courtesy of The Muny

The enhanced technical production values now in place at The Muny are really starting to pay big dividends. “Billy Elliot” represents perhaps the best use of youngsters in a Muny show ever. These kids are pros, especially Michael Harp in the role of Billy’s best friend and confidant. The entire supporting  cast is, overall, classic. There  are a couple of supporting performances I felt might have been cast differently, but supporting roles played by Ben Nordstrom as Billy’s older brother and Steve Isom as a miner are wonderfully accomplished.

Billy finale

Picture courtesy of The Muny

Call me a homer. Go ahead. But the power of this poignant show drew me in and never let go. It’s a production with a heart as big as The Muny stage. It is bold and brave. I believe it represents the best of what The Muny stands for as it moves towards it’s 100th birthday. And it makes you proud to know it all belongs to St. Louis. All 96 years.

http://www.muny.org/

 

 

 

 

 

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