Based on the 2000 film Billy Elliot
Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall
Music by Elton John
Music Director-Hannah Rose
Choreographer- Jennifer Cupani
At Highland Park Players at Northbrook Theatre
Billy Elliot Dances His Way to Northbrook
A live orchestra plays flawlessly, the scores from Sir Elton John, and the creative set design brings us to the coal mines back to the dance studio seamlessly.
Taking place during the UK miner strike in the 80’s in North Eastern England. A young boy named Billy Elliot (a very talented Cade M. Pearlman), not so well at boxing, accidentally finds himself dancing among a dance class filled with young ladies in tutus. Although, he is the only boy there is something about that class that makes him feel at ease.
His father (Brian Herrle), his brother Tony (Michael P. Greenlief Jr.) and the rest of the community are on strike and are constantly clashing with riot police. Billy is afraid to tell his family, with the exception of his Grandma (Jenny Rudnick) who was a dancer herself back in the day. He was afraid that he will be made fun of and would have to stop dancing. Mr. Elliot discovers the fact that he has been dancing, instead of boxing, and forbids him to attend that class. His dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Alexis Armstrong), sees his talent and suggests private lessons and a potential audition for the Royal Ballet School in London. When he seeks the advice of his best friend Michael (Ewan Parker-Eaton), Billy discovers him wearing a dress and expressing himself and Billy respects his differences. Michael convinces him to dress up and express himself which they ham it up like nobody in their working class community had ever seen.
Billy is asked to bring personal items to inspire his dance for his private lesson and Mrs. Wilkinson discovers that his mum (Gretchen Kimmeth) has passed away and his home situation is gloomy and wants more for him and she sees his talent. When the day of the audition comes there is violent uprising in the community and Billy is unable to leave the house. It is then everyone discovers that he has been taking private lessons and this is upsetting to the family and causes more anger and friction than ever. Billy takes a hiatus from dancing all together when his family refuses to accept him for wanting to dance.
At the community Christmas Party the children put on a show about Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher”. Later that evening Billy’s father sees him dance for the first time and becomes overcome with emotion and realizes that a boy should have a dream. The miners realize too that he should try to achieve his dream and everyone pitches in to help him get London. He goes to London to audition with his father and finishes the audition with not such a good feeling. When another dancer tries to comfort him he punches him and the school reminds him of the strict standards that need to be followed. Back at home life resumes and times are tough. At last they receive a letter whereby Billy pretends that he did not get in and his brother Tony picks up the letter to realize that he did indeed get accepted. He packs his bags and gives his goodbyes to all including his dead mother and Michael (his best friend) and heads off to pursue his dream.
A tender hearted show with real life emotions and a cast of characters that are all relatable. The angry brother, the broken hearted father, the absent minded grandmother, the inspirational teacher, working class people working hard, riot police and a young boy with a dream. We should all have such dreams and express ourselves accordingly.
Standout numbers include: Grandma’s Song, Solidarity, Expressing Yourself, The Letter, Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher and Finale!
This show is emotional and there is some strong language that may not be suitable for young children. I am glad that I experienced it and would recommend it-it will stay with you for times to come. Sometimes we forget that we need to follow our dreams…this show will remind you that anything is possible if you work hard enough!
Sally Jo Osborne.
Reviewed on Friday October 21, 2016.
Highland Park Players at Northbrook Theatre, 3323 Walters Ave., Northbrook, IL, Tickets are $20 – $25, running time 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, For more information call 847-291-2995, visit www.highlandparkplayers.com Or www.theatreinchicago.com.