I originally saw this play on 2 August 2005, and I have been trying to find my original review since then, but it seems to have gone AWOL along with my entire list archive for that trip (and also my review of the Proms, etc). So for this review, I’m going to have to skip the retro-review and write it from scratch and memory. The play is too good to leave it unreviewed, so here it goes.
If you’ve seen Billy Elliot the movie, you may be expecting the same thing from the play, but that’s not what you’ll get. (My original movie review is in this blog as well). I loved the movie to pieces as did many people. It’s hard to improve on something that good, something that memorable, and something that, in many ways, borders on perfection.
First of all, the play is not the movie. Period. The play is based on the original work and that is primarily about the miner’s strike as opposed to it being the background story, it is the main story. This makes the play even more poignant than the film.
The songs from the movie are not the songs in the play. Elton John wrote some interesting pieces for the play, one of the most amazing being “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” which is bright, bouncy, and very cheery as long as you don’t listen to the lyrics which make it very dark, very subversive. It is a very hummable tune and is definitely a showstopper. The other showstopper was “Electricity” which turned into a minor radio hit.
The acting in the play is fantastic beyond all measure. The wild standing ovation it got was well deserved and in fact it probably deserved more. Billy Elliot has won dozens of awards and it deserves every single one of them. The audience was clearly moved by the production.
I am not a big fan of dance at all. However, I loved the movie. And as much as I loved the movie, the play was amazing. The young boy who played Billy was fantastic — we got the one in the famous poster, but they rotate the lead among three lads due to stringent British Labour Laws.
I cannot say enough good things about this brilliant work, and I encourage you to go see it. It may be one of the best pieces of theatre ever created.