There is nothing typical about “Billy Elliot.”
This show with music by Elton John is set during the historic and tragic British Union of Mineworkers strike in the coal fields of Northern England in 1984, when struggling miners and their families where trying to save their livelihoods as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was endeavoring to bring down their Union and their industry, which she eventually did.
The character of Billy Elliot is the 11-year-old son of a mineworker whose wife died at an early age. Billy has learned to handle the fact that his Mom is gone with a good level of youthful maturity. Billy maintains a dialogue with his mother in his mind and heart, which is a very sweet element throughout this story.
When Billy learns that he’d rather dance than take up boxing, he is encouraged by a local woman who runs a small dance school. Billy is her only male student, but she recognizes his natural ability. His Dad, his Brother and his Grandmother are all against the idea, even when Billy lands an audition at The Royal Academy of Dance in London.
“Billy Elliot” is the kind of show that takes a little while to finds its measure, but once the audience gets in step “Billy Elliot” takes the lead and presents a story about family difficulties and the importance of supporting your children’s dreams that truly is timeless. The dialect of the characters may take a little time for the audience to assimilate, but it’s not difficult. The show’s lighting design is a bit striking, both in the sense of its darkness and sometimes its harshness.
As you might expect, there are a lot of kids in the cast. In fact, four youngsters dance the lead role of Billy Elliot each week because of its demands.
At the conclusion of the show, don’t be in a hurry to beat the crowd. This show and this talented cast has some surprises in the final scene and at the curtain calls. I was impressed that the performers really seems to be in love with their show. There’s a noticeable level of sincere enthusiasm. As I was leaving, I could hear the kids in the cast backstage cheering their official opening night performances.
The feeling was mutual.