On Stage: Billy Elliot the Musical

What’s all this dancing doing in my musical?

While I’ve always been a fan of song, I’m more ambivalent about dance — ever since the dream ballet sequence brought “Oklahoma!” to a screeching halt. Still, you really can’t go to a musical about a young boy who dreams of being a ballet dancer and not expect there to be a lot of dance. Fortunately, “Billy Elliot the Musical” is filled with a variety of impressive, imaginative footwork.

Lex Ishimoto (Billy) in “Billy Elliot the Musical.” Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Based on the 2000 movie and featuring music by Elton John and lyrics by Lee Hall, “Billy Elliot the Musical” has won critical acclaim and multiple awards — including the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical.

But is it any good?

Yes, yes it is. It’s now playing at the Fox Theatre and I recommend you pirouette on over to the box office and get tickets.

Set in the mid-1980s, the story takes place in a small mining town in England where the miners have gone on strike. Billy Elliot (played by four young actors during the Fox run — Ty Forhan, Kylend Hetherington, Lex Ishimoto and J.P. Viernes) lives with his father (Rich Herbert), older brother (Cullen Titmas) and grandmother (Jillian Rees-Brown ). Father and brother work in the mines and now they’re out of work.

Dad insists Billy take boxing lessons, but the boy’s heart isn’t in it. One day after another lackluster bout at boxing, Billy stays after class and gets caught up in a ballet lesson taught by Mrs. Wilkinson (Leah Hocking). Here is where Billy finds his true passion and soon he’s secretly using his boxing money to pay for ballet lessons.

Mrs. Wilkinson believes Billy has real talent and wants him to audition for a prestigious ballet school in London. The boy’s father and brother strongly oppose Billy doing anything so unmanly.

“Billy Elliot the Musical” is a clever mix of music, dance, drama and humor. The songs may not be well known but there are some real gems, like “Shine,” “Grandma’s Song” and “Deep Into the Ground.”

The dance numbers run the gamut from classical ballet to a comedic tap tune  (“Expressing Yourself”) to the show-stopping “Angry Dance” that ends Act I. The dancers — young and old — do impressive work.

The actors were all in top form for Wednesday night’s performance. Due to the demanding nature of the roles and the young ages of some of the players, there will be different performers in some roles each night. Last night Billy was played by 15-year-old J.P. Vierne and he did an amazing job. I wish I had that much energy. I wish I’d had that much energy when I was 15.

The set design is not elaborate but is effective. The story is simple but moving. Overall, “Billy Elliot the Musical” delivers an entertaining night of live theater.

“Billy Elliot the Musical” runs through Nov. 13. www.fabulousfox.com 

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2 responses to “On Stage: Billy Elliot the Musical

  1. I’m with Dad. Billy needs to man up. A punch in the face might do him some good.

  2. Anyone got a front row ticket for sale? Last January I saw it on Broadway and was blown away, especially by the boy who played Billy, Joseph Harrington. I expected to see a good show with cute little kids dancing, but this production blew me away! You have to see “Billy Elliot”! It is an amazing show!

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