Friday, June 04, 2010

Billy Elliot: The Musical

Last night we celebrated a belated Mother's Day by taking Bonnie to the Oriental Theatre in Chicago to see Billy Elliot: The Musical, book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John. Of course, as it worked out, Bonnie booked the tickets herself and identified which train for us to catch to get there. She also found our restaurant. I did pay for the meal and train tickets. So Laura and I did not have to work very hard on this Mother's Day present, but Bonnie got what she really wanted, and we enjoyed the evening with her. Billy Elliot is fantastic.

We arrived at the theater to find we were sharing the balcony with many high school students. They must have come by the busload. The ushers at the door threatened nearly every one of them with confiscation of cameras and cellphones if they dared to take a picture. I must not have looked menacing as I did not get the warning. Ironically, having forgotten my camera, I sat wishing I could snap a few pictures of the mythical creatures decorating the theater walls.

I thought after the first few scenes that we might have a rather long night. The British accents were very thick in the opening - I hardly understood a word of the coal miners calling for a strike- and the comic scene of Billy at boxing lessons was not really very funny. Then the full company sang and danced to Elton John's pounding "Solidarity." With police facing off against the striking miners and the little ballet girls and Billy in between, I was hooked. It was both menacing and comic. I particularly liked how the police and miners ended up wearing each others helmets.

The next dance with Billy and his good friend Michael, who likes girls' clothes, has a lot of surprising set changes, that I do not want to reveal. I will say that eye-popping elements of the staging prepare theater goers for the opening song of the second act, "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher."

Billy Elliot with its language of a coal mining village is not a show for sensitive viewers. It is at times violent and crude, but it is also sweet and sentimental and has great dancing. We saw high energy fourteen year old Tommy Batchelor as Billy. He must have been exhausted after all the ballet, tap, and contemporary dance. He alone was worth the price of admission. Father's Day is coming up. It is tempting to go again.

You may see scenes from Billy Elliot at the tour website.

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