After a twelve-year run on the West End, Billy Elliot comes to the Birmingham Hippodrome until April 29th.
Many may have seen the film, but it was a packed audience whilst I was there – and rightly so. The triumphant story of Billy, an 11-year-old boy, who, with the help of his gutsy dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, chooses to pursue ballet, instead of his father’s chosen hobby; boxing. Set against Thatcher’s prime-ministership and the miner’s strike of the 1980s in County Durham, Lee Hall’s adaption manages to depict the politics of a community and nation at war with itself but also the poignant individual story of Billy as he fights, against all the odds, for his audition at the Royal Ballet School.
Set to Elton John’s score, Stephen Daldry’s direction and Peter Darling’s excellent choreography, Billy Elliot combines the anger and frustration of the strike with the ballet classes of the children – police and miners face off whilst children dance between, capturing the tension of the time. It is visually stunning in many parts but what sticks out particularly is Billy’s show-stopping, cross-dressing friend Michael’s fabulous ‘Expressing Yourself’ number. The audience are left laughing and cheering as Billy and Michael tap across the stage in this empowering number. Several images remain ingrained in my mind – Billy flying high in a Swan Lake-esque scene as future Billy dances below, Billy dancing angrily in front of a picket line and of course, the audition in which Elton John’s classic ‘Electricity’ gains a whole new meaning. It is not just the huge numbers that grab you, but the incredibly touching moments throughout that do too – Billy lost his mum at a young age, and so much of the emotion comes from the exploration of this relationship.
Four incredible boys take on the role of Billy across the tour and it is no mean feat for Lewis Smallman, who captured the audience’s attention and imagination for the entirety of this three-and-a-half-hour show. Billy is a role that requires not just excellent singing and dancing, but also a convincing Geordie accent, and Smallman delivers all three. Rocketing between the hilarious scenes with Michael to the incredibly touching moments where he sings and dances his heart out, Billy Elliot, led by this talented young individual, is sure to leave you laughing, crying and everything in between.
It is no surprise that a standing ovation is what greeted the cast at the end – I couldn’t recommend the show highly enough. Simply put, it is electric!