“Billy Elliot the Musical” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ May 2, 2011


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Broadway and London’s West End arrived last week at ASU Gammage when a smashing tour of the brilliant “Billy Elliot the Musical” premiered. This road production is one of the most faithful replications of a major musical to play here in years. The cast is sharp and strong, Stephen Daldry’s staging is artfully reproduced, and the almost identical scenery keeps the show moving at a brisk clip.

The best part of “Billy Elliot” is the great story based on the 2000 film about a young boy in a small English mining town who defies norms to become a ballet dancer. He endures ribs, even from his family, about being a “poof.” Since the miners are involved in a no win strike that will ultimately destroy the town, Billy luckily but accidentally connects with Mrs. Wilkinson, the town’s ballet teacher. She recognizes his special talent and helps him win a Royal Academy of Music training audition.

It’s a warm, emotionally engrossing, and touching story. Elton John’s rich score provides Billy with stirring dance numbers, choreographed winningly by Peter Darling, that showcase the boy’s dancing adoration. Lee Hall’s book doesn’t take the film’s story to Billy’s adult success but it provides a better feel about mining’s impact on this town and English politics. Mrs. Wilkinson realizes that her lessons will net no great dancers until Billy stumbles into her class and dazzles her. She fights Billy’s family and the town’s people’s harsh catcalls to nurture his talent.

Darling’s choreography has several vibrant dance sequences for Billy and, on opening night, Australian Daniel Russell played Billy winningly. Russell is one of four boys playing the part here. While superb, on occasion Russell is a less intense Billy than the boy I saw in New York or than the original stage Billy my companion saw in London. Also outstanding is Faith Prince who provides a lusty and bawdy but quite touching Mrs. Wilkinson. That Prince could hide her American heritage and transform herself into a hardnosed but caring English matron is a tribute to Prince’s superb talent. Rich Herbert is a tough minded but thoughtful Dad. Patti Perkins is a crusty but supportive Grandma. Griffin Birney makes a heartbreaking Michael, Billy’s friend. Another boy alternates in this role. The rest of the cast draws believable portraits of the various characters that impact Billy’s life.

Valley audiences are lucky to see this dynamic “Billy Elliot.” If every Broadway show to play here were as wonderful, it would be easy for local audiences to understand the special impact of great Broadway musicals. You only have until Sunday May 8 to see “Billy Elliot the Musical.” For tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 1-800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A


One Response to ““Billy Elliot the Musical” – ASU Gammage”

  1. Experiencing the arts a little more with Billy Elliot | | ProxiesProxies said:

    Nov 03, 11 at 21:07

    […] had so much fun going and seeing the Billy Elliot Broadway play. I went with my sister, who also loves going to plays, and we had a great time. This entry was […]