Billy Elliot Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester

January 7, 2017

“Everyone is different. It’s a natural thing.”

 

The multi Tony and Olivier award-winning production, based on the inspirational film has hit the Palace Theatre for its first UK and Ireland tour after an eleven-year West End run.

 

Based on a northern mining town during the 1984/85 miners’ strike, the community has suffered under the Thatcher leadership. The harsh realities of unemployment and social discontent, have futures looking bleak for a community reliant on its pit. Despite expectations and reputations that proceed a boy that enjoys ballet, Billy has ignited a passion for dance in which he can find his escape and new opportunities.

 

Directed by Stephen Daldry and composed by Sir Elton John. The uplifting musical is one that stages scenes of the unapologetic, thirteen-year-old Lewis Smallman (Billy Elliot) against riot police. In the face of this misfortune is an underlying comedy, successfully running alongside the drama. Annette McLaighlin as the jaded ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson and Andrea Miller as Billy’s spirited grandma are representations of strong, struggling and resourceful women. They shape Billy and their community in a story that centres largely on the impact of a dying coal industry on men.  

 

The creative team behind the successful film have lovingly converted it for the stage. The large sets are frantically turned around, seamlessly revealing dramatic scenes in Billy's two floored home, to Mrs. Wilkinson's dance studio. It remains a fast-paced, honest musical with multi-layered sweeping sets. There are no romanticised images of coal workers as manly and independent but Peter Darling’s imposing choreography transforms Billy into a powerhouse. With a direction that is far from an all grey pallet, The Palace Theatre ricochets with joy as Billy duets with Samuel Tropey (playing Michael) dressing in women’s clothes.

 

Billy Elliot is a heart-warming production that is true to the film and despite its long run still resonates with audiences. The shows dark humour, catchy music and gritty realism makes it one of Britain’s most successful musicals as Billy’s passion helps restore his audiences’ faith during difficult times.

 

 

 

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