Billy Elliot: The Musical is the real deal: a truly compelling and absolutely spectacular theatrical experience destined to be a smash hit. Easily the best British musical since Les Miz , it feels appropriate that it's playing at the Imperial, once home to that long running musical. Simply put, you cannot miss it.
Based directly on the 2000 hit film, Billy Elliot follows an 11-year-old boy in mid-1980s Northeastern England who discovers that he has an extraordinary talent as a ballet dancer. Meanwhile, his father and older brother are coal miners striking against Margaret Thatcher's privatization and destruction of their industry. It is a tale of downsizing and layoffs that is scarily relevant to our current economy.
The musical builds upon and surpasses the film version thanks to the collaboration of Stephen Daldry (the movie director), Peter Darling (choreographer), Lee Hall (writer) and Elton John (music). In his first great score for the theater, John mixes rock and roll, folk ballads, political anthems and parody.
We could go on for days discussing the sheer brilliance of the staging. In addition to the beauty of the dance scenes, Daldry and Darling cinematically blend movement from the entire cast into the story. The showstopper "Solidarity," for instance, seamlessly juxtaposes the violence between the miners and police with the peaceful ballet students.
The title role is so demanding it is shared by three young actors. 14-year-old David Alvarez, who we saw perform the role, is not much of a singer, but his dancing is astonishing. Acting-wise, he performs the role in a withdrawn and noticeably restrained manner, only exploding in solo scenes like the Act One finale "Angry Dance" and "Electricity," where he loses himself to the freedom of dance.
The supporting cast is also excellent, especially Haydn Gwynne as Billy's sarcastic dance teacher and Gregory Jbara as his brutish but loving father.
Though you may need to refer to a glossary in the playbill to understand some dialectic terms, you should have no problem appreciating the show's masterful storytelling, nonstop theatrical energy and authentic emotional power.