Presented by Universal Theatrical Group, Working Title Films, Greene Light Stage, Michael Coppel, Louise Withers and Linda Bewick
Reviewed 31st December 2019
Put on your boxing gloves and tutus because Billy Elliot has arrived at the Festival Theatre.
As we delve into life in 1984, Northern Britain, coal miners are on strike and gender stereotypes are in full swing with boys attending boxing and girls attending ballet at the local rec centre for 50p. Life is hard for the coal mining community and in particular Mr Elliot (Justin Smith) who has lost his wife and is raising sons Tony (Drew Livingston) and Billy (Wade Neilson), whilst also caring for his elderly mother who is affectionately referred to as Grandma (Vivien Davies). Life in the Elliot house is never dull with Grandma losing her baked goods, Tony taking a passionate stance on the strike and Billy left to reluctantly trundle off to boxing class, where things take a change when he is asked to stay back and give the rec centre keys to Mrs Wilkinson (Lisa Sontag), the dance teacher.
The sets are cleverly designed in a way where they portray either the inside or outside of the buildings depending what scene it is, as well as mini sets on tracks that simply roll on and off the stage as needed to compliment the major set. These allow the characters to travel to many places with ease making for a show that flows seamlessly from start to finish: with four standout scenes evenly spread throughout the show, bringing it to a level of creative flare that captivates the audience. The use of puppets and oversized props adds a dimension that is truly magnificent and whilst I was disappointed at how obvious the harness and rope were in the Swan Lake scene, it was still a display of great beauty between Billy and Older Billy (Aaron Smyth) and is reminiscent of the beauty of Older Billy launching on to the stage in the final scene of the 2000 film.
As we follow Billy’s story of discovering ballet, it is his best friend Michael (Hamish Monger) who steals the show with his larger than life personality and his outlook on life that boys doing ballet is weird whilst boys dressing up in women’s clothing is a perfectly acceptable past time. Their friendship forms such an important part of the show and is a credit to the young actors that they were able to create such charisma with one another. Chanel Charles also deserves a mention for her portrayal of Debbie the dance teacher’s daughter, as she truly captured the essence of the character with the right amount of sass and 80s flare needed to tell a boy you are happy to show him your fanny in a bid to declare your affections. Whilst the adult cast are fantastic and portray an important part of history with the respect it deserves, it is the children who really bring the stage to life with an incredible amount of talent.
Keep in mind this show is set in the 80s in England so smoking, language, violence and all those types of things are in this show. It all adds to the authenticity of the show and is done tastefully on all occasions. I would highly recommend heading to https://billyelliotthemusical.com.au/ to see the entire team list that make this production come to life and the cast page as whilst there are too many people to name individually they all deserve recognition for such a phenomenal show.
Please note that throughout the Adelaide season, the role of Billy is also shared by Omar Abiad, River Mardesic and Jamie Rogers; the role of Michael is also shared by Mason Kidd, Oscar Mulcahy and James Sonnemann; and the role of Debbie is also shared by Gabrielle Daggar and Ella Tebbutt
Reviewed by Tara Forbes-Godfrey
Rating out of 5: 5 stars The importance of Family, Community, Love and Acceptance in one brilliant toe tapping experience.
Venue: Festival Theatre
Season: Until January 26 2020
Duration: 2 hours 55 minutes (20minute interval)
Suitable for ages 10 years and up