JAMES LOMAS as Billy

HAYDN GWYNNE      TIM HEALY

ASHLEY LLOYD     EMMA HUDSON     JOE CAFFREY     ANN EMERY


THE PLOT

Billy is a 12 year old by who lives in New Castle with his father, older brother and grandmother; his mother died several years ago. His father and brother are miners in strike against their work conditions and the government of Margaret Thatcher. One day, while going to a boxing lesson, Billy discovers the dance class of Mrs. Wilkinson and soon joins the all female group. The teacher soon discovers that Billy has a natural talent to dance and tries to convince him to try his chance at an audition for The Royal Ballet, but his family don’t see Billy’s dance career with good eyes and the boy looses his chance. Only later, when his father sees him dancing, does he realize the true potential of Billy.

MOVIE VS MUSICAL

I’m a huge fan of the movie and I’ve to confess that I was a disappointed with the show, but that doesn’t mean that this is a bad musical.

One of the best things about the movie was the relationship between Billy and his father and here it isn’t as important or strong. Maybe the fact that the actor who plays his father, Tim Healy, is too old for the part doesn’t help. I remember that in the movie the sequences involving Billy’s grandmother were very touching, but here they simply don’t seem to fit in; she’s just another character. On the plus side there’s chemistry between Billy and the dance teacher and between Billy and his friend Michael, those scenes are the best moments of this show.

One major problem for me was the fact that almost all characters speak with a strong New Castle accent that I had a really hard time trying to understand; fortunately I knew the story from the movie, although I didn’t get more than half of the dialogues. Other thing that left me complete cold was that fact that this musical is more political than the movie and there’s even a terrible number with puppets about Margaret Thatcher entitled “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher”, that I don’t think belongs to this show.

Since this is a new musical it has an all new score by none other than Elton John. I can’t say that the music is bad, in fact it works on stage and that’s what matters, but none of the songs lingers in my memory. Maybe I should confess that I’m one of those guys who love traditional musical scores and that I’m one of the few people who hate THE LION KING, so in truth Elton John is far from my kind of music.

Anyway there’s one or two musical numbers that I enjoyed, “Shine” and “Expressing Yourself”. The last one is also my favourite moment of the show, with Billy and Michael in drag dancing with all kinds of clothes.

Peter Darling’s choreography is interesting and funny, with some smart musical staging like in “Solidarity”, where policemen, miners and ballet dancers all interact without belonging to the same scene. There’s also a funny “Born to Boogie” for Billy, the teacher and the pianist and an uplifting final number with the entire company. In fact I think that the light side of the dance numbers don’t match the serious side of the plot.

KIDS

As for the cast well, the show belongs to the kids. James Lomas is an impressive Billy, dancing, singing and acting like a true trouper, as his friend Michael, Ashley Lloyd is another exciting revelation and almost steals the shows from Billy, and Emma Hudson is great as their friend Debbie. One last word for Haydn Gwynne, she is a perfect decadent and funny Mrs. Wilkinson.

For me this isn’t the big or terrific show that everyone seems to proclaim, but I had a good time and if they get ride of those accents things will work better.

 

Music by Elton John        Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall

Choreography by Peter Darling        Directed by Stephen Daldry

Photos © David Scheinmann, Greg Williams and Greg Gorman

Rated by Jorge: +++