Billy Elliot The Musical Reviews

“…Billy Elliot strikes me as the greatest British musical I have ever seen, and I have not forgotten Lionel Bart’s Oliver! or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  Phantom of the Opera. There is a rawness, a warm humour and a sheer humanity here that is worlds removed from the soulless slickness of most musicals. Yes,
there are rough edges that would give Cameron Mackintosh a fit of the vapours, yes, there are occasional scenes that are not as powerfully played as those in the film. But there is so much more that is big and bold, imaginative and great-hearted. The emotion always seems real and spontaneous, rather than
cunningly manipulated to pull at the heartstrings… The whole cast is blessed with a freshness and sincerity I have rarely seen equalled, and one leaves this triumphant production in a mist of tears and joy.” The Daily Telegraph

“Turning small-scale movies into big musicals is a treacherous business. It failed with The Full Monty, which lost all of its gritty truth when musicalised. But Billy Elliot succeeds brilliantly because Elton John’s music and, especially, Peter Darling’s choreography enhance Lee Hall’s cinematic concept. The musical, even more than the film, counterpoints Billy’s personal triumph with the community’s decline… Stephen Daldry’s production is a model of fluidity and intelligence. He constantly reminds us that the special power of the musical is that it can express a lyrical idea through physical action…” The Guardian

“…Together, Stephen Daldry and Lee Hall have concocted a piece that’s tougher, bolder and, as my tear-ducts can attest, more moving than its admittedly admirable celluloid precursor. With its rags-to-riches, or rather poverty-to-piroutte, story, the piece invites sentimentality. But that’s almost entirely missing in the Geordie pit village where young Billy discovers he has a gift for dance… Moreover, the action exactly coincides with the 1980s miners’ strike — and this comes across far more emphatically than in the film…” The Times

Billy Elliot The Musical, based upon Stephen Daldry’s classic movie, is just irresistible. It catches you
– or at least me – in its fervent grasp, and pins you down with all the artfulness of a vintage seducer, right to the misguided, sentimental finale… This is an evening which throws a fierce political punch as well as an emotional one. No modern musical has struck such rebellious, old Labour, workingclass conscious notes… Stephen Daldry, always at his best on the grand scale, deftly marshals a throbbing mixture of angry miners, threatening policemen and little girls in tutus – all singing. Ian MacNeil’s versatile designs set the changing
scenes…” The London Evening Standard

“BILLY’S A WHIZ! He’ll lift your soul, make you cry and send you home high with hope. Quentin Letts dances with delight at the first night of the £5million musical adaptation of Billy Elliot. Only its heavy-handed politics take the shine off the show. DREAMY dancing, full-rip staging, stonking songs and terrible politics. But for its dismally trite, Socialist Worker angle on the miners’ strike, Billy Elliot the Musical would stand tall this morning as a production of the most searing quality. Even with that significant flaw this is
a glorious show. It’s a weepie, funny spectacle married to a super score by Sir Elton John. The beautiful blond boy playing the lead last night, Liam Mower, will surely become the biggest child star since Mark Lester played Oliver Twist…” The Daily Mail

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One thought on “Billy Elliot The Musical Reviews”

  1. “Well”, The Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, London- until January 24th, 2009

    “Excellent Performances, Lost in Translation”

    I can see why this show was a hit on Broadway. Living in the States for two years, I learned that Americans are much more comfortable sharing their “issues” than we uptight Brits, in fact once they get started the sharing just keeps on coming. The latter part of this play is no exception to the rule.

    At the opening of the piece Lisa, impressively played by Natalie Casey, tells us what the play is going to be about- “why some people get sick and then get well, and why other people stay sick”- like her mother. I’m not a fan of direct address but I push my irritation to one side as Casey’s engaging late twenties Jewish-American Lisa lays out her plan for the play she has written.

    We soon learn that Lisa’s play is actually more about her relationship with her mother, played by the strikingly beautiful Sarah Miles, and ghosts of her childhood than perhaps even she herself realises.

    The modest set successfully captures the liberal mother’s dwelling place and personality before Miles speaks a word. Custom made hospital beds are wheeled on by supporting actors as they enter for flashback scenes at Lisa’s allergy clinic.

    The performances are universally strong. The supporting cast cope admirably with playing multi role and are at their most impressive in their more heightened castings. Unfortunately for them, some of the lines they have to deliver when their characters step out of the play within the play just don’t quite work in a British accent. The Jerry Springer-like cheesy honesty of the words leave us Brits shuffling uncomfortably in our seats.

    “Well” is at its funniest and also its most poignant when it makes its point subtly. It does have some good points to make, but they are largely lost in self indulgence and heightened drama later in the play.

    Casey’s performance is outstanding. Convincingly Jewish American in attitude, stance, mannerism and almost in accent, she definitely deserves a critical nod. God only knows how such a great actress got through the Hollyoaks casting net and on to the show.

    While I was clearly not alone in finding the “Oh s**t, there’s an audience there” moments unbearable, this play is worth seeing if only for the excellent performances. It’s just a shame that once again, in London’s West End, not one of the cast manages a consistently good U.S. accent.

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