“Billy Elliot” – Phoenix Theatre and “An Act of God” – Arizona Theatre Company


Phoenix Theatre, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ


Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Two very different but superb productions present an embarrassment of riches for local theatergoers and their holiday guests with Phoenix Theatre’s emotionally moving musical “Billy Elliot” and Arizona Theatre Company’s riotously funny “An Act of God.”

Phoenix Theatre has achieved a stellar reputation for fine musical theater productions under Michael Barnard’s leadership.  Now with a flawless presentation of “Billy Elliot” staged by Barnard, PT scores its greatest triumph in a remarkably engaging production that successfully duplicates the colossal original London and New York productions.

“Billy Elliot” is no easy show to mount with its splashy display of exuberantly athletic dances and swift scenic changes about a small Northern English town as it captures a young boy’s determination to achieve dance stardom using his natural talent as the pulsating dances change thinking about the dance profession.  The show demands extraordinary acting, dancing, and singing as belligerent miners, including Billy’s father and brother, must accept the diverse opportunities available to everyone.

Young Billy enjoys dancing and Mrs. Wilkinson, a local dance instructor, discovers his natural brilliance.  She faces the miners’ haranguing but convinces them to accept Billy’s trip to earn a place in The Royal Ballet School.

Remarkable as Billy Elliot is Matthew Dean.  This 7th grader possesses a dynamic personality, amazing dance acumen, a strong singing voice, and the acting chops to create a vibrant character.  No less amazing is Jenny Hintze’s steadfastly determined Mrs. Wilkinson, Chris Eriksen’s understanding Dad, and Maria Amorocho’s loving Grandma.  Other pluses are believable English accents, gritty sets that create the town’s downtrodden appearance, and an orchestra that plays the Elton John score with passion.  Phoenix Theatre’s richly entertaining “Billy Elliot” plays through December 24.  To order tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A

As Paige Davis emerges at the beginning of “The Act of God,” she starts spouting the play’s amusing diatribes about daily living.  Playwright David Javerbaum turns these occurrences into hysterical stories and clever one-liners that create raucous laughter.  Davis is superb as the first woman to portray God in this local Arizona Theatre Company premiere production.  She delivers the madcap frivolity with impeccable comic timing, superb understatement, and sly subtlety.  Two cohorts playing angels – Max Lawrence and James Gleason – aides the frivolous innuendo and malarkey.  The playwright doesn’t belabor his humor making the show literally a laugh a minute.  You can’t go wrong with “The Act of God” that plays through December 4.  To order tickets, call the Herberger Theatre Center box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A