Billy Elliot – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

A young Billy Elliot, barely eleven years old, is forced to confront an early manhood when he tosses away his boxing gloves and replaces them with a pair of ballet shoes. Living in County Durham in northern England in 1984, when his father and brother are embroiled in a bitter coal miners’ strike, does not make his memorable decision any easier. Dreams can be more attainable to imagine, but reality can be brutally hard. The strong working class, especially his da and brother, do not take well to his choice.

To enter Billy’s imaginative world, let Goodspeed Musicals take you on a journey until Sunday, November 24 when “Billy Elliot the Musical” claims its dancing legs. With book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John, it has been adapted from the movie of the same name in 2000. It is thought that Elton John was so affected by seeing the movie that he decided then and there that it would make a remarkable musical.

Here in the dark and dismal coal miner’s world, where the influence of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is caught in every lump of coal and crash of a pick axe, the contrast with the pure and unadulterated joy of Billy’s dancing is a beautiful difference to behold. Young idealistic Billy, alternately portrayed by Taven Blanks and Liam Vincent Hutt, both outstanding in the role, soars across the Goodspeed stage with passion, power, optimism and determination.

A chance encounter has placed him in a bevy of little girls’ ballet class and he soon discovers he enjoys the exercises much more than the boxing His teacher, an encouraging Mrs. Wilkerson, Michelle Aravena, and her daughter Debbie, Erica Parks, see a spark of greatness in his talents and want to get him an audition with London’s Royal Ballet. This is much to the dismay of his dad, Sean Hayden, and brother, Gabriel Sidney Brown, although his dotty and sweet grandma, Barbara Marineau, and recently deceased mother, Rachel Rhodes-Devey, support his efforts with love.

The resilient Billy, in his turn, offer encouragement to his good friend Michael, John Martens, who is going through his own transformation, by donning his mom’s clothing and wearing Elton John glasses. Powerful dancing numbers include the shadow ballet with Nick Silverio as the older Billy as well as the angry tantrum dance that concludes Act !. Powerful tunes include “Solidarity,” “Merry Christmas, Margaret Thatcher,” (with a wonderful puppet of her courtesy of scenic designer Walt Spangler)“Electricity,” :Once We Were Kings” and “The Letter.” Gabriel Barre directs this tale of courage and determination that is sure to stir your heart as you cheer on the young lad to victory.

For tickets ($29 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals, 6 Main Street, East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with some 2 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3p.m.and8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with some 6:30 p.m.).

Let Billy Elliot capture your imagination and spirit as he lives his dream, exhibiting breathtaking ambition and energy all along the way.

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