I was privileged this past week to see Billy Elliot – the Musical at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. I have to say that it was the best show I have ever seen. I was bowled over with the dancing talent of the entire cast, especially that of Jacob Clemente who played Billy. There are five different Billys who alternate their performance in the musical. I would love to see at least one of the other Billys. I am certain they are all as good as Jacob.
The action takes place during the Miners Strike in Northern England in 1984 during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister. She was determined to shut down the coal industry and to crush the unions. In the midst of this chaos, Billy has realized his love and ability for ballet dancing. Of course, his father, who was providing him with boxing lessons, was completely opposed to having his young son become a dancer. Billy’s mother had passed away and Billy was being looked after by his grandmother, played by Carole Shelley.
Billy discovered the dancing class next door to his boxing class and became friends with the teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (played by Emily Skinner) who recognized Billy’s talent and persuaded him to come to her class. We watch as Billy gradually advances in secret and is encouraged by Mrs. Wilkinson to audition for a spot in the Royal Ballet School in London.
Billy’s father, after several talks with Mrs. Wilkinson and watching his son perform, relents and brings Billy to the audition in London. Of course, Billy is accepted although he initially fooled his family into believing he was not.
Several subplots add to the story. For one, Billy’s mother had written him a letter before she died and told him not to read it until he reached adulthood. Of course, Billy did read it. His dead mother appears to him in two separate scenes where she tells him how proud she is of him. This was a very poignant part of the play which brought tears to my eyes.
It was obvious that the entire cast loved the production. The male ensemble of policemen and mineworkers was exceptional. Emily Skinner (Mrs. Wilkinson) was especially integral to the plot. It might be noted that Emily has lost about 100 pounds since her previous performances in Jekyll & Hyde and The Full Monty.
The music for Billy Elliot was written by Sir Elton John with lyrics by Lee Hall. The production is based on the movie Billy Elliot which was released in the year 2000. The show at the Imperial Theatre has won ten Tony Awards including Best Musical.
I would urge anyone who plans to visit New York City to take time to see this remarkable musical. The roller coaster emotions which are evoked throughout the performance will leave you limp at the conclusion.
Playbill – Billy Elliot – the Musical