BWW Reviews: BILLY ELLIOT Leaps Into Philadelphia
Leah Hocking and Lex Ishimoto in the National Tour of Billy Elliot" width="200" />
The national tour of the hit musical Billy Elliot opened at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. The musical by Sir Elton John and Lee Hall is based on the 2000 movie of the same name. Being a fan of the movie, or any movie for that matter, you never know what to expect when it is adapted into another medium.
Billy Elliot tells the story of a young British lad who, in difficult times, discovers his talent for ballet and works hard to make his dreams come true. Set against the 1984/85 English miners’ strike the themes of the musical resonate today more than ever. In a time when ‘It Gets Better’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests are in the news, one does not need to have ever set foot in a dance class to relate to the struggles of the characters in Billy Elliot.
The score by Sir Elton John and Lee Hall provides an uplifting vehicle to propel the story. The songs make sense and move the action forward with much of the charm one expects from John’s music. The story moves quickly and is heightened by the music, not once did I find myself (as I am known to do) sitting there counting how many songs are left until the act is over. Peter Darling’s choreography complimented the story without making it more about the dance than the drama. The dance moved the characters forward providing a compliment to their motivations - at times sublime and others silly - it was always captivating.
The cast, led by Lex Ishimoto in the title role at this performance, was stellar. The pure emotion the struggle of everyday people trying to do right by those around them people was apparent. Special kudos go to Leah Hocking for her performance as Mrs. Wilkinson, the local dance teacher who fosters Billy’s talent and encourages him to pursue his dreams. The layers she gives to Mrs. Wilkinson slowly peel away to reveal a soft heart who stands up for Billy and helps his dad realize that his future lies away from the coal mines of their small village.
With strong performances, music, and movement Billy Elliot provides an evening at the theater that makes you want to leap to your feet. It’s one of those shows that brings a smile to your face and makes you want to dance up the aisles on your way home humming the music and believing in dreams.
Billy Elliot runs at the Academy of music through November 27th. Tickets are on sale now and range from $20 to $150. Tickets can be purchased by calling 215.731.3333, online at kimmelcenter.org/broadway, at the Kimmel Center box office, Broad and Spruce Sts. (open daily 10 am to 6 pm) or at the Academy of Music box office, Broad and Locust Sts. (open during performances only). Performances include: Tuesday – Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm; Sunday evenings at 6:30 pm; and matinees Saturday at 2:00 pm and Sunday at 1:00 pm. Weekday matinees include Thursday Nov. 17 and Friday Nov. 25 at 2:00 pm. No performances are scheduled for Thursday November 24, Thanksgiving Day.