Following fast on the heels of Billy Liar, comes my review of Billy Elliot.
This year’s Radio 2 Audience Award Olivier went to Billy Elliot. Despite it running for 8 years, I’d never got round to seeing it. It’s Olivier win put it nearer the top of my list and thanks to the lovely folks at Shows In London I was able to see this splendid show recently.
Having now seen it, I can see why it got the Olivier Award this year. It’s an exhilarating piece of theatre. It’s the only show I’ve seen where the lead got a standing ovation at half time, another midway through act 2 and then one at the end! We had Tade Biesinger as our Billy. He deserved the rapturous applause he got throughout, an outstanding performance from one who’s only 13.
The whole cast give powerful and passionate performances though. Billy may be the star but his cast are what help him to shine so brightly. Special mention must go to Ann Emry as Billy’s Grandma, Gillian Bevan as Mrs Wilkinson and Deka Walmsley as Billy’s Dad. This is a show with a strong story and high emotions. They keep the emotions high but never stray into the melodramatic.
The lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John range from the melodic and moving The Letter, to the aggressive Solidarity, to the humourous Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher. (surely a contender for Christmas number 1 this year?)
The choreography throws a few surprises and there are some truly remarkable moments from Billy and the cast.
The biggest shock for me was the amount of bad language. I don’t expect miners to speak like they’ve attended finishing school. I do however think the swearing is excessive, especially from the young people. A shame, as for me it’s not the family friendly show it could be. Likewise the one dimensional left-wing bias is a shame.
The story is inspirational and uplifting and I enjoyed the nostalgic feeling for the 80’s the show gave me.
I can see why it won the Olivier Award this year. A worthy winner.
STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★