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BWW Review (amateur production): BILLY ELLIOT at Lillestrøm Kultursenter – Billy is Flying High!

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The production runs from August 26h - September 5th

BWW Review (amateur production): BILLY ELLIOT at Lillestrøm Kultursenter – Billy is Flying High!

BWW Review (amateur production): BILLY ELLIOT at Lillestrøm Kultursenter – Billy is Flying High! Billy Elliot is the story of a young boy who just wants to dance, from a community that is in turmoil as an effect of the UK miners' strike of 1984-1985. Based on the 2000 film written by Lee Hall and directed by Stephen Daldry, the musical - also written by Hall, with music by Elton John - is back in Norway, but this time in the form of the very first licensed amateur production. And Lillestrøm Folketeater sets the bar high for those to follow.

When Billy (Alexander Gløtta) stays late in the town hall after a boxing class, he finds himself in the middle of a community ballet lesson. This becomes a turning point in his life and makes the world spin around and open up to him. Teacher Mrs Wilkinson (a wonderfully brassy Karoline Sollie) sees genuine potential in this tough-as-nails working class kid, and it's just a matter of time before she's giving him private lessons and (as the plot progresses) organizing an audition with the Royal Ballet School.

It's a good outlet for Billy, whose family has been struggling since his mother passed away. His father (Øystein Lindseth-Løkka) and older brother Tony (Mattis Woxen) are coal miners who persistently support the strike, and they don't quite know what to do with this little boy in their care - or his overly bizarre Grandmother (Kari Schøyen Paulsberg), either.

This musical is notable in that it tackles heads on the subversion of traditional gender roles, encouraging acceptance and open-mindedness. The show's decision to represent both drag and the challenges of traditional masculinity in a positive light is very refreshing. The core message is the value of 'expressing yourself' and embracing one's 'individuality.' Billy's subversion of traditional masculine "gender performativity" is great to witness, and will hopefully be an eye-opener should there be those in the audience who still struggles with these issues.

Alexander Gløtta (Billy) is nearly constantly in motion, and have to chart a difficult, vulnerable character arc that, as it gets harder and more complex to play, features more difficult dance as well. His Billy feels raw and real. He is a good novice dancer, and projects a fantastic singing voice. He still has a bit more in him to give when it comes to acting, but as I witnessed the final dress rehearsal, there may have been nerves involved and I'm sure he will gradually master this as well as does the singing and dancing.

BWW Review (amateur production): BILLY ELLIOT at Lillestrøm Kultursenter – Billy is Flying High!

Karoline Sollie's Mrs Wilkinson is phenomenal. She is fully embodied in her character. Mrs. Wilkinson is a hard character to get right cause she needs to be tough, foul mouthed and yet sweet and maternal. Sollie does this with ease, and the atmosphere always felt more relaxed when she was on. Especially the letter-song was a very moving scene thanks to her and Billy's mother played very well by Tonje Haukner.

I felt Øystein Lindseth-Løkka really got to "shine" during the act two opening, when he sings one of his late wife's favorite songs during a party scene. From here on out I really felt for him wanting to finally to understand his son's dreams and ambitions. I would have wished he was bit more dominant in the first act so that his transition becomes even clearer. The scenes when he has to confront his eldest son (impressively played by Mattis Woxen) was truly captivating to witness.

Billy's best friend Michael is played flawlessly by Teodor Barsnes Simonsen. He embraces his character's queerness and has fun with the part, while at the same time making it sad to witness him having to hide this side of himself because of the potential exclusion from family and friends. The "Expressing Yourself" number is one of the first acts biggest highlights.

The supporting cast all do a splendid job, and there are no rotten eggs in this basket. They come across as a solid ensemble where everyone gets a chance to grasp the attention of the audience. They also sing at level not always heard in amateur productions, so hats off to both the cast and musical supervisor Peder Varkøy

All the dance sequences in the show (craftly choreographed by Guro Karifjord) works very well. The scenes at Mrs. Wilkinson's studio are delightful (they feature a corps of little girls who are deliberately dancing poorly, but ever so charmingly). The sequences where Billy learns to dance under the tutelage of Mrs. Wilkinson and her accompanist Mr. Braithwaite (Kristoffer Johnsen) are so much fun. And lastly when Billy imagines himself a grown-up ballet dancer, dancing in a sea of fog to the sounds of Swan Lake. Older Billy is performed by Kristian Støvind, who has also choreographed the number. This is one of evenings biggest highlights.

BWW Review (amateur production): BILLY ELLIOT at Lillestrøm Kultursenter – Billy is Flying High!

The Scenic design by John Johansen is very based in reality with large wired fences on the back wall, a large bridge structure with an opening in the middle, while two large revolving set pieces could be used in various ways; such as Billy's House, dance studio with changing rooms and exteriors. I felt the scene design was strong and functioned very well along with Øyvind Grimstad's lighting design. Wired fences, smoke and ambient light is always a winner! There were a few places where the actors wasn't properly lit, so there is still a few glitches in need of fixing before opening night.

The musical is produced, directed and translated by Magnus Landaas Skjervold. As head of this production he has done a marvelous job getting the utmost out of all performers. Most scenes flow very well, and although some scenes (involving the adults) would have been well served by upping the tempo a bit, they don't detract to much from the overall picture. Bravo!

The first Norwegian non-professional production of Billy Elliot is a solid piece of entertainment, and deserves to be seen by the local community. I urge parents to tell their kids to put down the smartphones, iPads and gaming devices for a few hours, and take them to experience Billy Elliot's journey of self-discovery. Parents may learn a thing or two as well, along the way.

BWW Review (amateur production): BILLY ELLIOT at Lillestrøm Kultursenter – Billy is Flying High!


Director and translator: Magnus Landaas Skjervold
Choreographer: Guro Karijord
Musical Director: Peder Varkøy
Assistant Director: Peder Kaalstad
Production Assistant: Mikkel Maanum

Presented by Lillestrøm Folketeater og Lillestrøm Kultursenter


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