BWW Reviews: BILLY ELLIOT A Stunning Experience
"Billy Elliot" features all the elements of theatricality theatregoers love, although friends of the late Margaret Thatcher may wish to stay away. The Elton John musical balances great storytelling with three intense dance numbers performed by an incredibly talented child and some stunning lighting that highlights the highest points of the lofty production.
A young Billy finds himself surrounded by girls in tutus after a boxing lesson, and although he knows his father and brother wouldn't approve, starts taking dancing lessons. The men of the village are caught up in a bloody coal mining strike, a conflict that takes a strong toll on their families, and on Billy's dancing. The well-developed plot inspires communities to come together and individuals to both follow their dreams and look beyond immediate circumstances to what matters most in life.
And its creators have filled it with poignant moments that stay with audiences long after the final bows (another fun highlight of the show). Rich Hebert gives a tear-wrenching solo while reminiscing about his deceased wife. Molly Garner (Billy's mom) shares a sweet moment with Billy and resentful dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson (standout Janet Dickinson) when Billy shares a letter his mother left him. And a hilarious Patti Perkins gives a fabulous performance as Billy's disillusioned grandmother, who recalls her days with an abusive husband during the incredibly moving and gorgeously choreographed solo, "We'd Go Dancing." Other standouts include a sidesplitting Patrick Wetzel as the ballet piano accompanist Mr. Braithwaite, Sam Poon (alternating with Jake Kitchin) as Billy's best friend, Michael, and Cal Alexander as an adorable Small Boy.
Although some of the dances seemed more rehearsed than natural at Tuesday night's Sacramento opening, Peter Darling's brilliant choreography pulls from the anger and chaos surrounding Billy in a chilling first act finale. Mitchell Tobin, who alternates in the role of Billy with three others, excelled in his contemporary and ballet dance. In a dazzling look into Billy's future, the young Billy dances a duet with his older self (the exquisite Maximilien A. Baud).
The show features a fairly young and extremely talented cast of ballet girls and village children in addition to a strong ensemble providing powerful vocals intertwined with the unfolding story. The production demands a lot of its cast, and its audience most definitely reaps the benefits.