Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Billy Elliot - The Musical




Billy Elliot – The Musical.  Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall.  Music by Elton John.
Free Rain at Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre,  April 9 – May 5 2024.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 16

Director: Jarrad West; Asst Director: Jill Young
Musical Directors: Katrina Tang & Caleb Campbell
Choreographer: Michelle Heine
Set Design: Dr Cate Clelland; Costume Design: Tanya Taylor
Lighting Design: Jacob Aquilina; Sound Design: Dillan Willding

Keys 1/Conductor: Caleb Campbell; Keys 2: Vivian Zhu / Katrina Tang
Reed 1: Lara Turner; Reed 2: Caleb Ball
Trumpet: Sam Hutchinson / Elsa Guile
French Horn: Carly Brown / Dianne Tan
Guitar: Dylan Slater / Michael Rushby
Bass: Hayley Manning; Drums: Brandon Reed

Billy Elliot – Fergus Paterson and Mitchell Clement
Michael Caffrey – Charlie Murphy and Blake Wilkins
Jackie Elliot – Joe Dinn; Tony Elliot – Lachlan Elderton
Mrs Wilkinson – Janie Lawson; Mum – Jo Zaharias
Grandma – Alice Ferguson; Mr Braithwaite – James Tolhurst-Close
Debbie – Zahra Zulkapli and Madison Wilmott

David Gambrill, Tim Maher, Thomas Walker
Dave Collins, Sian Harrington, Jordan Dwight

Easington Cast                                  Maltby Cast
Florence Tuli, Addyson Dew             Eleanor Ladewig, Ella Field
Millicent Fitzgerald, Laura Keen       Sophie Kelly, Kaity Hinch-Parr
Rosie Welling, Amber Russell           Mia Veljanovsky, Laney Himpson
Heidi McMullen, Taylor Bollard       Giselle Georges, Ellie Grace de Landre
Caitlin Hunt                                       Bella Henness-Dyer

Ash Syme, James Morgan, Anneliese Soper, Liam Prichard
Cameron Sargeant, Sam Welling, Jackson Dale
Bianca Lawson, Cassie Ramsay

Billy Elliot the Musical is about community.  Not just a coal-mining community in northern England in 1984 where the story is set.

On strike when PM Mrs Thatcher closed the coal mines.

Jarrad West and his huge cast make the evening about celebrating the performing arts in our community right here.

The whole community in Christmas celebrations

The audience in The Q were as energetic and enthusiastic as the onstage dancers, singers and actors in being together.  In community, in action.

It’s the real-life warmth of feeling that flows off the stage that makes this production so enjoyable to see.

The story itself is of a government cruelly destroying a community, and that community is divided even within families, which makes the original movie a tragedy for Billy to fight against.  His need for self-expression and determination to go his own way against the odds makes an engrossing drama.

But watching on a screen, at an emotional distance, means we focus on his individual experience.  In the theatre with a real Billy singing and dancing, real police tap dancing through their duties, and all those young girls showing Billy the way, life is clearly so much more positive – and we are no longer just watching but enjoying with the performers their expression through the art of performing.

And, of course, that’s the other theme of Billy’s success, even at last in his father’s eyes, at least, despite his never really understanding ballet.  The great thing was about seeing (I think on my night) Mitchell Clement as Billy showing exactly what his stage dance teacher Janie Lawson as Mrs Wilkinson sees in him, a potential Royal Ballet School entrant.

Billy ready for audition.  Father still doubtful.

Character acting was also forceful, and engaging at times in less than pleasant situations:

Photos side by side as if
Billy and Grandmother opposed to boxing lessons with Mr Braithwaite and Michael

Billy with his father, brother and dance teacher
Billy Elliot the Musical
Free Rain 2024
Photos supplied

 Overall, a highly successful production of a rather different kind of musical.


Concluding thought:

In closing down the coal mines Mrs Thatcher perhaps ironically foreshadowed our need now to close down as much fossil fuel industry as possible.  We can only hope our government can manage the transition to renewables with fair treatment of the communities involved.