Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

A new touring production of Billy Elliot the Musical is the perfect example of the power of dance to portray emotions.

River Mardesic performing in Billy Elliot the Musical.*

Anger, frustration, despair, hope, joy and happiness are all brilliantly illustrated through a wide range of dance styles including ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary moves.

The movie – like the stage show – was written by Lee Hall and features the music of Elton John.  While the movie highlights Billy’s personal challenges, the stage show is more political.  As a result Billy’s dream of training to be a ballet dancer during the 1984-85 miners’ strike in a northern English village is couched in the struggles experienced by the miners, who include his father and brother. Scenes featuring a soup kitchen, union meetings, police cordons and bloodied miners show such struggles.

The cast of Billy Elliot the Musical.*

Billy, together with his father and older brother, are also dealing with the death of his mother.

His life changes when he stays late at the town hall after a boxing class, which he hates, and finds himself in a community ballet lesson.

Lisa Sontag and the Company.*

It doesn’t take long for his teacher, Mrs Wilkinson, to see his potential. She offers him private lessons and believes he should audition for the Royal Ballet School. Needless to say when his father and brother find out they don’t approve, but a change of heart ensures a happy ending.

Without doubt one of the highlights of the show is Peter Darling’s brilliant choreography.

From left: Robert Grubb , Lisa Sontag and Justin Smith.*

Standout numbers include Solidarity, which features the battle between the striking miners and police, interspersed with one of Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet classes.

Expressing Yourself sees Billy and his best friend, Michael, sharing the stage with tap dancing dresses.  Billy’s tap routine in Angry Dance portrays his great frustrations while the miners’ anger is clear for all to see in Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher. Then there is the classical Swan Lake duet which sees Billy dance with his older self (performed by Aaron Smyth).

River Mardesic and Aaron Smyth.*

Another show highlight is the cast. All are totally believable and there is no weak link.

Leading the way on opening night at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre was 11 year old River Mardesic, who gave a brilliant performance. His singing, dancing, acting and even North English accent were excellent.   Mardesic shares the role with three other boys.

Lisa Sontag is wonderful as the tough talking but caring Mrs Wilkinson, while Justin Smith as Billy’s struggling father and Drew Livingston as his angry brother are also very believable. Their confusion over Billy’s love of dance is obvious, as is Smith’s love for his son.

Justin Smith*

Vivien Davies is a delight as Billy’s confused gran, with her rendition of Grandma’s Song another highlight.  Equally as enjoyable to watch was Oscar Mulcahy, as the cross-dressing, doll-loving Michael. Ella Tebbutt as Mrs Wilkinson’s daughter Debbie and Dean Vince as Mr Braithwaite, pianist and dance lesson assistant to Mrs Wilkinson, provide plenty of laughs.

It’s the combination of the show’s many humorous scenes with poignant and often sad moments which ensures Billy Elliot The Musical offers an emotional, powerful and memorable theatrical experience.

Billy Elliot the Musical is playing at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre until April 19.  For more information and tickets visit the show’s website.

*Photo Credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Billy Elliot the Musical as a guest of the producers.


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