I had the pleasure of catching Billy Elliot during its original run on the West End.
The child actors in this production carry the show. Those playing Billy and Michael are absolutely phenomenal, which is not to say that any of the adults faltered; rather that these boys stole the show.
Based on the movie of the same name, when Billy Elliot's father, a striking miner, takes him to learn how to box, Billy is instead drawn into a ballet class and starts secretly taking lessons. But Billy must overcome his family's prejudices and the troubles being stirred up by miners' strike in order to become the dancer he dreams of being.
The show, like the movie, is very dark and the libretto fantastic, but where the musical faltered for me was in Elton John's music - none of which was very memorable. The songs seemed to break up the story rather than add to it - with the exception of those in which Billy dances. This is one of the few dance-heavy shows I've seen where I've longed for even more dance numbers.
Though I was left wishing producers had pushed the envelope a bit - rather than sticking to the musical theatre mold we've seen for decades - they were successful in creating a production filled with hope and possibility and one that will launch more than one little boy to stardom.
Title: Billy Elliot: The Musical Songs By: Elton John Label: Decca Broadway Suggested Age Group: Older Teens (16+) Recording Highlights (from iTunes): Expressing Yourself / Electricity / Angry Dance / Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher / The Letter “Billy Elliot” is Broadway’s newest golden child, but do the songs hold up outside the show? I would have to say … more
Based on the 2000 film about a young British boy who tries to escape a future as coalminer by training in ballet, Billy Elliot--The Musical feels like an exemplary screen-to-stage adaptation, making the best use of composer Elton John's melodic resourcefulness. Fans of John's regular output need to be warned that this album is show tunes all the way and that they'd be hard-pressed to recognize the songs as usual fare by the author of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Your Song." Still, they really should give the CD a chance. Fans of musical theater, on the other hand, will need no prodding. They are likely to be enchanted by this recording, which shows that John has thoroughly absorbed the genre's classic strain. The show is very catchy, with well-structured, dramatic songs and some genuine tearjerkers ("The Letter"). Sir Elton even proves he's listened to great "jazz hands" classics (some by Kander and Ebb, perhaps) on "Shine," which even requests some "ol' razzle dazzle." Teaming up not with usual lyricist Bernie Taupin but with the film's screenwriter, Lee Hall (and its director, Stephen Daldry), John has written a lovely stage score, as evidenced on this recording of the London cast. Note that John himself performs three songs from the show on a bonus CD.