Be True to Yourself
Billy Elliot the Musical held its opening performance at the Fabulous Fox Theatre on March 13. The show is based on the 2000 film Billy Elliot—about a young boy growing up in a poor English mining town who discovers his love of ballet. With book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John, the show won 10 Tony Awards in 2009, including Best Musical.
The opening scene sets the stage for this gritty story. It’s 1984, and the coal miner’s strike is just beginning. Eleven-year-old Billy leaves his boxing class and accidentally stumbles into a ballet class run by Mrs. Wilkinson. He is captivated by dance and begins taking classes secretly.
The coal miners—including Billy’s father and brother—go on strike. Clashes with riot police escalate. Billy’s father discovers his son’s secret and forbids him from continuing. Mrs. Wilkinson, however, has recognized talent in the boy and encourages him to audition for the Royal Ballet School in London.
On the day of the audition, the police come through town, and Mrs. Wilkinson is forced to reveal to Billy’s family that she has been giving the boy private lessons. A fight ensues, which ends with Billy’s father storming off and Billy left in emotional turmoil.
Six months later, after a depressing Christmas party in town, Billy dances for the first time since the missed audition, and his father sees him. He goes immediately to speak with Mrs. Wilkinson about the ballet school. The town pulls together and gathers enough money for Billy to audition. The town collectively wishes Billy well as he is accepted into the school and steps into his new future.
Billy (played on different nights by actors Ty Forhan, Kylend Hetherington, Zach Manske, and J.P. Viernes) is an energetic character that will steal your heart with his emotion and his dancing. After every number, the crowd was applauding for more. The sharp-tongued ballet teacher who taught Billy to shine was brought to life by Leah Hocking—who gave Mrs. Wilkinson her own dazzling glow.
Billy’s family (consisting of Rich Herbert as the Dad, Patti Perkins as Grandma, and Cullen R. Titmas as Tony) provided a rough and heart-felt trio that left the audience feeling the pain and struggle of working class life. The role of Billy’s best friend Michael (played by Cameron Clifford and Jacob Zelonky) was a memorable and scene-stealing joy to watch. The supporting cast was superb, and the choreography was full of life and emotion.
Billy Elliot is an uplifting story of dreams in the midst of dark circumstances, but it’s not meant to be friendly for all families. The subject matter is heavy and raw, and the language and situations are of a mature nature. Parental guidance is suggested. Billy Elliot the Musical runs through March 18. For more information or tickets, please visit the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta website. Tickets are also available at the Fox Theatre box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 1-800-982-2787 or online.
– Christi Whitney