Billy Elliot, Victoria Palace Theatre

23 Jun

Billy Elliot follows the story of eleven-year-old Billy and his struggle to fulfill his dream: to become a ballet dancer. Set against the backdrop of the Miner’s Strike, there are many obstacles he has to overcome until he successfully gains a place at the Royal Ballet School.

This was not my first time seeing the show, but it is one of the very few musicals in the West End at the moment that I could see again and again. It has a great story and I love most of the songs, especially the ensemble numbers.

At this performance, the role of Billy was played by Dean Charles Chapman, Michael by Reece Barrett and Debbie by Emily Williams. There were understudies/alternates on for Dad (David Bardsley), Tony (Stevie Hutchinson) and George (Derek Richards).

Dean was terrific as Billy. He just was Billy, totally believable from the beginning to the end. Nice singing voice as well and a great dancer of course. The Dream Ballet really was a dream, as was his Electricity. Also a very powerful Angry Dance and I love the shadow dance before Grandma’s Song. His acting during The Letter was great. There are some established West End actors who could learn something from this boy!

He and Reece made a great pair and seemed to have lots of fun during Expressing Yourself, another great number, in spite of one of Michael’s Dancing Dresses getting caught up in another.He has great comic timing, while at the same time always manages to maintain Michael’s vulnerability.

Emily was very good as Debbie, too, though I have to admit it’s not really a character I pay that much attention to.

Stevie Hutchinson as Tony. I have to  say first that Tony is probably the character I sympathise with most. I know that Billy is the main character and everybody roots for him, but, in the end, he gets what he wants. He has to fight for it of course, but, unlike Tony, he has a bright future ahead of him. For me, Tony represents just how much is at stake for the miners and the hopelessness of the whole situation. Therefore I’m extremely picky when it comes to how the part is played. Stevie, however, was pretty much perfect. Angry and agressive, but at the same time just desperate and frustrated, with the whole situation as well as with his Dad. There was great chemistry between him and David Bardsley and He Could Be A Star was very moving. I also liked the look he gave Billy during Deep Into The Ground,

David Bardsley was great as Dad. I loved his Deep Into The Ground. He also doesn’t play it as much for laughs as some other actors, especially during the Royal Ballet School audition, which I prefer. But my favourite bit is during Once We Were Kings, when he packs the suitcase with Billy and shows him how to fold his clothes neatly, only to crumple them up again. I just find it a really lovely touch.

I like Genevieve Lemon as Mrs Wilkinson. I don’t particularly like Shine and Born To Boogie, but she was great. I loved her in The Letter scene, however, and when she says goodbye to Billy. She sounded great with Kay Milbourne, who plays Dead Mum.

Diane Langton, Martin Marquez, Tom Lorcan

Diane Langton as Grandma I’m not so sure about. I did quite like her during Grandma’s Song, but for me, Grandma should be a bit more confused than Diane Langton played her.

I really liked Barnaby Meredith as Older Billy, amazing dancer. Sergio Giacomelli, who was on as the Scottish dancer didn’t sound very Scottish though, but I guess that’s a very minor flaw.

The ensemble is very strong, great singing and dancing. I love the ensemble numbers, especially The Stars Look Down, Solidarity and Once We Were Kings. The choreography in Solidarity is amazing and Once We Were Kings is probably my favourite song/scene in the musical.

One thing I’m not so keen on is Billy’s “Oh, sh*t” after he called his Dad a bastard. It just seems to be played for laughs and for me destroys the atmosphere of that scene. There were also some sound issues, mainly with microphones being turned on too late.

Nevertheless a great evening and I’ll probably end up seeing the show again sooner rather than later!

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