Billy Elliot 4.5*

Billy Elliot, Victoria Palace TheatreIan’s 4.5* Review:

I really loved this, and the cast were fantastically talented, especially the children who are amazing dancers!  A great job of transferring the film to musical format, with some songs that are really stuck in my head.  I could easily see this again.  A lot of elements of it brought back memories of the TV news when I was little, all the images from the miners strikes, which aded real power to it.

There are just a couple of reasons this doesn’t get 5*.  One is that I felt the first half was (after the opening number) a bit disjointed for a while.  It took me a bit to get into it.  The other is that after the emotional peak of the show, there is too much gratuitous jazz-handsy razamataz for my taste.  The story has some really important messages, and while I recognise the need for some sort of number to get the cast on stage for their bows, there was far too much of this for my taste.  It sort of diluted the emotional impact of a really moving story for me.

That said, I’d thorougly recommend this show to anyone!

Ruth’s 4.5* Review:

Warning, here be spoilers.

I’ve wanted to see Billy Elliot for a while as it gets excellent reviews, but because it gets excellent reviews it is rarely offered at a good price. I’ve now exhausted all the cheap ones, and thanks to GILT was able to get an excellent deal on this.

I thought it was excellent, I loved it from the start. I liked the film back when it came out but somehow I think the stage production works even better. I found it more powerful anyway. The way that the ‘boy taking up ballet’ storyline is set against the backdrop of the miner’s strikes of the early 80s makes for awkward viewing (in a good way) – the tone of it and the colours – dark and angry for the miners, light and fluffy for the ballet scenes.

I love the frustration of the ballet teacher – she’s stuck in a small depressed town delivering mediocre ballet lessons to talentless kids. And then, unexpectedly, Billy turns up and she thinks he might just be good enough to make it but there seems to be too many barriers in the way.

It is heartbreaking when Billy’s dad puts his values to the side by crossing the picket line so he can pay for Billy to travel to audition at the Royal Ballet School because he wants him to have a chance of a different life even if he’s not entirely supportive of the route Billy has chosen, and then just as bittersweet when the community pitches in money they don’t really have in the hope that one of their own might be able to get out and have a successful future. Even if it is in ballet 🙂

And then, at the audition, Billy has no idea how to act or how to talk about his love of dancing and he nearly blows it because unlike the other kids he is completely out of his comfort zone. It is a very moving commentary on the fact that sometimes, putting an opportunity in front of someone isn’t enough if they have not had the life chances that would help them to exploit it. And getting in to the Royal Ballet School would be just the start of the challenges for Billy of course, in the 80s with his accent and his background and his education. Talent isn’t quite enough. In the film we see an epilogue – adult Billy dancing the lead in Swan Lake with his friends and family in the audience – and we know it is going to be OK. None of that in the musical, which is a shame I think, but I guess it ends with a bit of hope in a bleak situation.

Anyway, 4.5* from me. I loved loved loved it and I could watch it again immediately. Great story, good pace, nice songs.

Tremendous dancing from the lad playing Billy, particularly at the close of the first act which was worthy of a standing ovation in itself. Throughout, he does a good job of ‘learning’ to dance (rather than being just good all the way through!) and there is also a nice dream sequence style piece where Billy dances with his older self.

Oh and the singing in British regional accents which I’ve only ever really seen in the West End in Blood Brothers before. Lovely.

I’m dropping it the half star because I think the singing was ‘good enough’ rather than outstanding (although that made it quite charming) and I’m not sure they’d got the sound quite right for us up in the cheap seats…


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