Theatre Review: Billy Elliot, The Musical

We are fortunate to live in a city that offers so much variety in terms of arts and entertainment.   Last Tuesday, I joined a group of friends at the Canon Theatre to watch Billy Elliot, The Musical.  

I had seen the movie of the same name, produced in 2000, upon which the musical is based.   This musical is about a young boy, Billy Elliot, who to the dismay of his father and older brother loves to dance ballet.    Billy’s ballet instructor, whose class consisted of only girls before Billy showed up, recognizes his natural talent and convinces him to take private lessons in secret.   

Billy’s struggle for individualism is set against the background of a year long strike by the British National Union of Mineworkers who want to save the coal industry from the threat of closure by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  I thought the show did a great job of balancing Billy’s personal story with the broader political realities of the time.

Elton John is the composer of this musical, and the live orchestra played it wonderfully.  I found the cast of children to be incredibly talented performers.  There were a lot of adorable moments and lots of humour.   Of course Billy’s secret ballet lessons did not remain hidden for long and you will have to watch Billy Elliot to find out what happens in the end.   

I took away 2 main messages from this musical:  

1. Don’t be afraid to be who you are, even if others don’t understand.  This was better said in the lyrics of one of the songs: “in everything you do, always be true”.   

2. Unite with your community and fight for what you believe in.

Sadly, according to the Canon Theatre programme, while there were 300,000 men in the mining industry of Northern England in 1984, today there are fewer than 1,000.  As a result, more than 98% of the coal used for British energy is now imported from other countries.

To learn about this and other shows coming to a theatre near you, visit: http://www.mirvish.com.   Check out the original movie trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8Zuc5ukqLI&feature=fvwrel

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