The regional premiere of “Billy Elliot the Musical” opened at the Maltz-Jupiter Theatre on Dec 1, 2015. It runs through Dec. 20. It’s a great way to get a couple of hours rest from shopping and holiday preparations to watch this production mounted exclusively for the Maltz.
This is one fast-moving musical and if any details were missed it would be hard to know where. Wow! It’s worth seeing just for the dancing if nothing else.
Choreographer Greg Graham, who worked on the original Broadway production of the musical keeps the action happening. And Nicholas Dantes as Billy shows off what three years of intensive dance lessons can do when you’re young and dedicated.
It’s likely that most SFGN readers are familiar with the movie version of Billy Elliot, if not the Broadway production of the musical based on the film. Some of the themes are familiar to many of us who self-identify as not heterosexual, and as not cisgender.
Society stereotypes jobs and genders and one of those stereotypes is “Men who dance have to be gay”… or do they? Billy Elliot says he’s not. And the question finally arises – “What does it matter?
The musical, with score by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall who also wrote the screenplay, was based on the 2000 film, “Billy Elliot.” The musical opened in London in 2005 expanding to Australia in 2007 and to the United States in 2008, garnering an impressive number of awards along the way.
The action takes place in a mining town in North England during the miners’ strikes of 1984/5. Billy Elliot is 11 years old and his mother is deceased. He’s growing up in the company of his Dad (Joe Cassidy) his older brother, Tony (Graydon Long) both of them miners on strike, and his Grandma (Elizabeth Dimon) who suffers from dementia.
It’s a moving story of a young man who finds himself despite pressures to conform to social expectations, in this case mining for money and boxing for fun.
For those who of us who remember the difficulty understanding the North England accent in the film, it’s a grace that the accents deployed in this production are readily understandable.
The change reflects Director Matt Lenz’s preview comment that he planned to make the environment less dark and miner-union focused and give more attention to developing the themes of self determination and self expression.
One of the early songs with that theme is,“We’d Go Dancing,” in which Grandma sings that if she had it to do over she’s be her own woman and not somebody else’s wife.
The theme is repeated in the number “Expressing Yourself” during which Billy’s friend Michael (Shane Treloar) dresses both boys in women’s clothing to disdain the cultural mores in which they find themselves. Michael will later (Act 2) profess having feelings for Billy who responds that being gay is not a prerequisite for loving to dance.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t darkness, violence and even blood as Dad and Tony fight the mine closures and the scabs who continue to work despite the strike.
Readers who want to know how the plot continues will have to see the show. The rest of the cast members are great and the sets and staging at the Maltz continue to amaze.
Tickets start at $55 and are available online (JupiterTheatre.org) or call the box office at 561-575-2223.