When Jonathan Finn produced Billy Elliot back in 2000, he had very little faith in just how well the movie starring a young Jamie Bell would do.
Finn didn’t expect it to receive such high praise at Cannes Film Festival, or that five years down the line his beloved film about a young boy who discovered his love for ballet whilst his little village was falling to pieces around him would become a multi award-winning musical.
After an incredible 12-year run in the West End, Billy Elliot is in the midst of a huge tour across the UK, selling out theatres in every city it touches and causing a whirlwind of emotions that will have you laughing, crying and everything in between.
Let me start by saying this, this musical is an absolute triumph; filled with spectacular set design and lighting from Ian Macneil and Rick Fisher, it’s a chance for fans of the movie to become fully immersed in Billy’s inspirational journey.
There are four incredible talented boys taking on the role of the young lad who swaps his boxing gloves for ballet shoes, and whilst I’m sure that every boy brings every ounce of energy and personality to the role, last night’s performance was made so much more special when 13-year-old Lewis Smallman took to the stage of the show’s second night at the Hippodrome.
12-year-old Billy has lost his Mum who died when he was young and growing up with his pasty-eating Grandma (Andrea Miller), brother Tony (Scott Garnham) and father (Martin Walsh) during the 1984-1985 mining strikes in the North-East. Yet his whole world changes when he finds himself taking up ballet lessons with Mrs Wilkinson (Annette McLaughlin).
The stage show follows in very close steps to the BAFTA winning film that came before it, but it has the benefit of not just incredible staging that sees Billy literally fly above the stage but also spectacular music from the legendary Sir Elton John.
It’s impossible to pick anything wrong with this production, even if I went through everything with a really fine toothcomb I think I’d be struggling. The truth is, it’s simply breathtaking and an absolute triumph from beginning to end.
The perfect balance of humour – the language isn’t suitable for anyone below the age of 12 – is yet another string for Billy Elliot to add to its bow. From heartwarmingly hilarious scenes between Billy and his best friend Michael which saw giant dresses and trousers dance their way along with the boys, to the intense scene when Billy really lets loose allowed Lewis’ sheer talent shine through loud and clear.
Billy Elliot doesn’t fail to pull on your heartstrings on numerous occasions. The sheer emotion that comes through from the cast makes the story so believable, which probably explains why I repeatedly found myself trying not to cry everytime Billy broke into yet another stunning routine.
It came as no surprise that the show closed with a standing ovation from the stalls right up to the upper circle, anything less of a reaction from the crowd would’ve been criminal.
Billy Elliot the Musical runs at the Hippodrome until April 29. And with just under 60 shows to go, you’d be silly to miss this outstanding production. It’s five stars from us!
Get your tickets for Billy Elliot here!