BILLY ELLIOT at Signature Theatre - Just Plain Spectacular

I was thrilled to hear that BILLY ELLIOT would be on the 2018-19 Signature Theatre schedule. I loved the 2000 film which starred Jamie Bell (star of television's "Turn") as well as the 2005 Tony-winning musical featuring book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Sir Elton John...yes, that Elton John.

The story revolves around young "Billy", an 11-year-old boy growing up in the middle of a coal mining strike in Northeast England in 1984. He pays 50 pence each week to take boxing lessons but while there notices a ballet class of all girls and before you can say "Swan Lake" "Billy" is taking ballet lessons for the same 50 pence.

This alone would make for a great musical but add that his father is a coal miner who loses his job thanks to Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, "Billy's" Mom has recently died, and "Billy" will occasionally "see" his mom and converse, his grandmother is slowly getting dementia, and his best friend Michael likes to cross-dress. He has an interesting life to say the least. He sees British "Bobbies" beat up his brother and others who are protesting the demise of their work in the mines. Thanks to his ballet teacher who senses "Billy" has tremendous natural talent, she suggests he audition for the Royal Ballet School. When his father finds out that "Billy" has been secretly been taking ballet lessons versus boxing lessons, he explodes. Later he realizes that dance may be "Billy's" only escape from the mines.

Matthew GardIner, the talented Associate Artistic Director at Signature, tackles the Herculean task of Directing and Choreographing this behemoth of a musical which is filled with dance, tap dancing, ballet and even flying.

Thanks to the "Washington Blade" I learned that Director/Choreographer Matthew GardIner, like "Billy", was the only boy in an all girls' ballet class from the age of 8 to 16 when he decided even though he had the talent, he wanted to go in a different direction.

What a job GardIner does with a superb cast of individual dancers, actors, and singers. He should win an award for his casting.

There is no BILLY ELLIOT without talented children. He found two to play the lead - Owen Tabaka (who I saw) and Liam Redford. Tabaka has a great future ahead of him.

Playing "Billy's" father is Chris Genebach. I have become a huge fan of his after his terrific roles in CAROUSEL and MY FAIR LADY at Olney Theatre Center and at Everyman Theatre where he shined in DEATH OF A SALESMAN, A STREETCAR NAME DESIRE, and AN INSPECTOR CALLS. His acting chops run the gamut from a mean-spirited father/miner to a caring, understanding, and hopeful father thinking of his son's future as an artist.

Playing the Dance Teacher is the incomparable Nancy Anderson who excels as "Mrs. Wilkinson". She recognizes early on the talent "Billy" demonstrates and serves as his mentor.

Other standouts are Catherine Flye as "Grandma", Jacob Thomas Anderson as "Michael", Dan Manning as "George", Harrison Smith as the pianist "Mr. Braithwaite", and Sean Watkinson as Billy's brother "Tony".

It is thrilling to watch all the dancing by the leads, the younger cast members, and the terrific ensemble. The cast is made up of 39.

The Orchestrations are by Martin Koch who did the original Broadway production for a 17-piece orchestra. Here there are nine musicians but theY sound like many more.

Kudos to the band under Conductor/Keyboard player Tom Vendafreddo, Keyboards 2, Brandon Adams, Reed 1 Ed Walters, Reed 2 Scott Van Domelen, Horn Amy Smith, Trumpet Chris Walker, Guitar Jim Roberts, Bass Max Murray, and Drums David Murray.

Special mention to the Choreographer for the Angry Dance number at the end of Act I., Mark Orsborn.

Prime Minister Thatcher plays a major role in the story and there is a clever "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher" which include a great puppet show with a wild depiction of Thatcher. Coincidentally, just last week a large statue of her was originally intended for a site near Parliament in London but it was rejected by the Westminster Council. Instead, it may be moved to Grantham, Lincolnshire

I loved seeing so many young people in attendance. I was thrilled to take two of my grandchildren ages 5 and 7. The play may not be appropriate for some people due to language. But I played the CD many times before hand and explained the story and I was so pleased they both loved it.

Get your tickets soon. Call 703-820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org. The play runs about three hours.

You can purchase the CD of the Original Broadway Cast at the theater for $21.50. It also includes a separate CD of Sir Elton singing three songs from the show, "The Letter", "Electricity", and "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher".

Check out these two video highlights and I guarantee you will buy a ticket!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmrqkI6FMTE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qm68vT2hzs

Next up at Signature is MOTOWN: THE REPRISE until Dec. 22.

THIS AND THAT

ADDENDUM

Catch Hugh Jackman on "The Today Show" Tuesday morning, Dec.4 when he will preview his new show he is taking around the world in big arenas. He will sing a song from "The Greatest Showman" with a large orchestra and dancers and other numbers.

Head to the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage Friday Night, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. for a HAMILTON Sing-Along.

On December 2, 2018, the Kennedy Center will hold its 41st annual national celebration of the arts - The Kennedy Center Honors. Artists to be honored in 2018 include singer and actress Cher, composer and pianist Philip Glass, Country music entertainer Reba McEntire, and jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.

This year, the co-creators of Hamilton-writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire-will receive a unique Kennedy Center Honors as trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.

In a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2018 Honorees will be saluted by today's leading performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world through performances and tributes.

Set your DVRs: The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 41st consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Wednesday, December 26 at 8 p.m. ET.

The Kennedy Center hosts MISS SAIGON Dec. 11 to January 13 and the hysterical British comedy THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG: Dec. 18 to January 6.

The National Theatre has BEAUTIFUL, THE CAROL KING MUSICAL through December 30.

A Christmas Carol at both Chesapeake Shakespeare Theatre in Baltimore, Ford's Theatre in DC, and Olney Theatre Center which also presents the musical ELF (until January 6).

Metro Stage has CHRISTMAS AT THE OLD BULL & BUSH until Dec. 23.

Toby's Dinner Theatre continues with DISNEYS' THE LITTLE MERMAID until January 13.

Round House Theatre has August Wilson's GEM OF THE OCEAN.

Theater J has TALLEY'S FOLLY running Dec. 7 to Dec. 30.

Shakespeare Theatre Center has the musical ANYTHING GOES and INDECENT.

Studio Theatre has CRY IT OUT to be followed by KINGS beginning Dec. 12 in Studio X

Baltimore Center Stage is offering A WONDER IN MY SOUL from Dec. 1 to Dec. 23.

Everyman Theatre has THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

cgshubow@broadwayworld.com

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From This Author Charles Shubow

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