Billy Elliot arrived to Adelaide for the first time after touring Australia between 2007-2009, and we were in attendance to witness this spectacular musical production at Festival Theatre.
Billy Elliot is set in Northern England during the dark and depressing days of the miner’s strike between 1984 and 1985. Music is featured by the legendary Elton John and on this night, Billy Elliot is played by Wade Neilsen (aged 13 from Newcastle) who plays the role perfectly. His dance skills in a range of styles from Ballet, tap, hip hop and contemporary is incredible. Billy barely leaves the stage throughout so its definitely shows his amazing endurance as well as talent.
As Billy Elliot commences, we are introduced to the dark times that exists in the town and we see Billy reluctantly participating in boxing classes. But one day, he accidentally stumbles upon a ballet class and the journey begins for Billy to become a professional ballet dancer.
The journey of being professional is helped by Mrs Wilkinson (Lisa Sontag) who plays a very powerful role in being his dance teacher. We witness a very emotive part of the musical when she has a confrontation with Billy’s dad (played by Justin Smith) when he tries to stop his son from taking any further classes. I also sense Mrs Wilkinson plays a mother type role for Billy as he struggles with the loss of his mother, and also the struggles of having his father and brother (played by Drew Linvingston) totally opposed to having Billy become a ballet dancer. And all this occurring during violent clashes between miners and police. The hug that Billy gives her is a very emotional part of the musical for me
The musical perfectly portrays Billy escaping that harsh reality that he is living in, and his escape and feeling freedom by becoming even more skilled in the art of ballet. An emotive scene occurs when we see Billy dancing with his elder self.
There are dark and emotional scenes but there are also hilarious scenes such as the interaction Billy has with his cross dressing best friend Michael (played by Hamish Monger), and also roles by Billy’s grandmother (Vivien Davies), his boxing teacher (Robert Grubb), and Mrs Wilkinson’s pianist who are all extremely funny throughout. And not forgetting Mrs Wilkingson describing one of her class members as looking like a spastic starfish while performing which brought lots of laughter from the audience.
The production feels raw of being in a Northern England town full of miners so there is lots of swearing but its not done in a crass way.
As Billy auditions for the Royal Ballet school, we see the town becoming united and that sense of community is demonstrated with miners in high vis tap dancing alongside young girls in tutus.
Billy Elliot will make you cry, it will make you laugh, but overall, it will give you an inner feeling of warmth as we see a town overcome poverty, and Billy ultimately bringing joy. And the feeling of community goodwill and love where all members look out for each other regardless of what they do in life.
Review by Tony Polese
Billy Elliot the Musical is based on the Universal Pictures / Studio Canal film BILLY ELLIOT.
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn, Sally Greene, Louise Withers, Michael Coppel & Linda Bewick
Executive Producers: Angela Morrison and David Furnish
Executive Producer Australia: Philippa Gowen Password: Electricity
Adelaide Festival Centre’s Festival Theatre
Until January 26th, 2020
TICKETS ON SALE NOW
bass.net.au / 131 246
For the Adelaide season, the role of Billy willl also be shared by Omar Abiad, River Mardesic and Jamie Rogers; the role of Michael is also shared by Mason Kidd, Oscar Mulcahy and James Sonnemann; and the role of Debbie is also shared by Gabrielle Daggar and Ella Tebbut