Billy Elliot – Victoria Palace – Review

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Following fast on the heels of Billy Liar, comes my review of Billy Elliot.

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?)

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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 : ★ ★ ★ ★

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Olivier Awards 2012

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This years awards were another glittering event promoting all that is good about London theatre. The event is growing and growing and well done to SOLT for raising the profile of this event even more than it did last year. The Royal Opera House was a suitably grand venue, hosted amiably by Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.

I was pleased to see the following as winners:

  • Sheridan Smith wins for a second year in a row, this time for Flare Path.
  • Crazy for You’s  Peter McKintosh got the award for Best Costume design deservedly.
  • Matthew Warchus winning Best Director for Matilda.
  • Dame Monica Mason getting the SOLT Special Award for her 54 years of work with the Royal Ballet.
  • Nigel Harman I think deserves his just for the fact he performs his role on his knees in Shrek.
  • Derren Brown winning his for Svengali which is returning to London in June.
  • Crazy for You I was chuffed to see won Best Musical Revival.
  • Collaborators was a pleasant surprise for Best Play (I’m off to see that later in the year)
  • Seeing Tim Rice’s contribution recognised with a Special Award was also good to see.

Tonight however was Matilda’s night winning a staggering seven of the awards.

Only thing that spoiled the event for me was Ronan Keating and Kimberley Walsh butchering ALW’s “No Matter What”, as one person commented on Twitter, Laurence Olivier was revolving in his grave at that point.

I loved the chance to see the cast for numerous shows performing their numbers and the Lion King finale was a fitting end to the night. A great evening and a splendid advertisement to the world of what the West End offers.

Oliviers – Results

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And the winners are....

 

 

Well the ceremony’s occurred and seems to have gone very well. I unfortunately was out of the country so couldn’t attend (a post on where I was and what I was doing will appear later this week)

Here is the list of winners;

BEST ACTRESS
Nancy Carroll
After The Dance

BEST ACTOR
Roger Allam
Henry IV Parts 1 & 2

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Michelle Terry
Tribes

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Adrian Scarborough
After The Dance

MASTERCARD BEST NEW PLAY
Clybourne Park

XL VIDEO AWARD FOR BEST SET DESIGN
Bunny Christie
The White Guard

BEST REVIVAL
After The Dance

BBC RADIO 2 OLIVIER AUDIENCE AWARD
We Will Rock You

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL
Into The Woods

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Sheridan Smith
Legally Blonde The Musical

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
David Thaxton
Passion

BEST SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Jill Halfpenny
Legally Blonde The Musical

BEST DIRECTOR
Howard Davies
The White Guard

BEST NEW MUSICAL
Legally Blonde The Musical

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Neil Austin
The White Guard

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Hildegard Bechtler
After The Dance

BEST SOUND DESIGN
Adam Cork
King Lear

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE
Lyric Hammersmith for Blasted

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
La Bohème

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
Christian Gerhaher
Tannhäuser

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
Babel (Words)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Antony Gormley
Babel (Words)

BEST ENTERTAINMENT
The Railway Children

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER
Leon Baugh
Sucker Punch

SPECIAL AWARD
Stephen Sondheim

All very deserved. I was surprised that Love Never Dies didn’t get at least one award after being nominated for so many. It was good to see the Lyric Hammersmith awarded one for Blasted. The fact that the National Theatre and Royal Court dominate should be a wake up call to government that subsidised theatre works and should be supported. There’s a huge amount of exciting work happening over the next 12 months in London and we’ll see what are possible candidates for next years, but I bet the NT and Royal Court will dominate again.

 

Olivier Awards 2011

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And the winner for Best Theatrical Blog goes to......

This year the Olivier awards certainly have upped their game and profile, which is BRILLIANT to see. These awards are important for the theatre industry but more so have an important role as a way of showing what Theatre’s been up to these last 12 months to the wider general public.

I congratulate SOLT for really grabbing the bull by the horns and getting the awards and ceremony sorted as it had been floundering a bit these last few years and for getting maximum promotion for these awards. Stephen Sondheim is being rightly awarded a Special Award. To top it all Barry Manilow is going to be singing along with Kerry Ellis which will be a highlight I’m sure.

The only bad thing is they’ve arranged it for a time when I’m out of the country so alas your fave theatrical blogger won’t be treading the red carpet or rubbing shoulders with Barry, Sondheim or Kerry – boo hoo! (rumour has it they are equally upset at my absence 😉 )

Once the results are out I’m sure I’ll have something to say.

On a separate note, but kind of linked too, I was reading about The National Theatre’s history when Olivier was in charge this morning and I’d no idea of the debt we in the theatre world owe to him for helping found the wonderful National Theatre, thanks Larry!

Fabulous Featrical Feasting

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Yes, I know to my college peers it’ll seem like I’m being smug, but I’ve been cracking on with my background reading for my modules which are due to start next month. Being brutally honest this is the first time that I’ve actually got disciplined to read through as much as possible before the module starts, and so to my peers I highly recommend you get on with some, as I’m finding it exciting and also feel like I know a little bit now about the subjects I’m about to study.

So over the last two weeks I’ve been reading through several of the plays I’m going to be looking at more in-depth, and it’s been great to be reading such a variety. Here are a few of the highlights:

Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, totally surprised me, I’d never heard of it or Joe Penhall. The background blurb mentioned that this play had won the Olivier for Best New Play in 2001. I absolutely loved it, it covers a subject (schizophrenia) that is close to my heart as a close friend suffers with this condition. More than this though, it’s so well written and “tight”, no line of dialogue is superfluous, and the conflict of interest between the three characters, really made me want to yell at the character Robert for being such an egotistical numpty!

I love it when the degree introduces me to great plays and playwrights, I can’t praise this play enough, and look forward to reading more of Joe Penhall’s work.

Next I read my first ever Terence Rattigan play  last week. The Browning Version was the play and again I enjoyed this, it again had a link that I could identify with, as I went to a Grammar School. The character Millie is certainly  up there with the list of “stage bitches” such as Hedda and Lady Macbeth. I found the introduction about Terence Rattigan at the start of the book, fascinating, his struggles, and life certainly make for a good read. I’m not sure what I’ll make of his other work but The Browning Version is certainly worth reading or seeing.

Into the Absurd with Jean Genet and his play The Balcony, I read this on the train during rush hour this week and I wonder what my fellow passengers thought as they read snippets over my shoulder. It’s set in a brothel and the first few scenes are rather “kinky” in places.

However as the play develops, Genet’s genius shines through, what or who is real? What is merely illusion? Who really has power?  These are all questions he brings to the fore with this clever play, with sometimes uncomfortable answers. The absurdity of existence is shown in an entertaining and powerful play.

Other writers I’ve read are Ionesco, Pinter and Wesker, more on them in the not too distant future.

It’s great to be challenged, stretched and have my mind and eyes open to such a wealth of theatrical writing, bring on August when the modules start!