My Life in Words

I can't really explain it. I haven't got the words.

Posted by Carla Boyd on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 Under: Musical Review
It's a feeling that you can't control.
I suppose it's like forgetting, losing who you are,
And at the same time something makes you whole.
It's like when you've been crying
And you're empty and you're full.
I don't know what it is, it's hard to tell.

With my mum being an opera singer and my dad part of my hometown's symphony orchestra, I pretty much grew up in the theatre. It fuelled my own desire to be on stage so when I was a teenager I took part in my school's performances of Les Miserables and Oliver Twist. It was the start of my love for musicals. In my last year at school I majored in music and had the chance to spend 12 days in Vienna, during which we saw multiple dress rehearsals, concerts, ballets, and operas. However in the 5 years I've been living in London I never got the chance to explore the theatre and musical scene. That was - until this week. 

Due to the lovely people at, I got free tickets to see Billy Elliot - The Musical in order to write a review of the musical. So here goes:

[General information - The musical is based on the movie of the same title. For those of you who haven't seen the film at all, here's a short summary: An 11-year-old boy called Billy discovers his passion for dancing and has to overcome the negative stereotypes associated with male ballet dancers. This proves especially challenging as he lives in a small town in northern England which is affected by the 1984/1985 coal miners' strike, with both his father and his brother being miners.]

Having seen (and been part of) multiple musicals, I had quite high expectations going in. And while the overall experience left me joining in the standing ovation and cheering just as loudly as the others, there were some points I wasn't so happy with. Let me get those out of the way so I can get to the part where I tell you why you should go and see it.

The musical's storyline - as well as a lot of the conversations - match the film closely. While I am in favour of this (after all, the musical was created because of how good the movie was), I did think it limited the songs. In order to stick to the original script, some of the lyrics seemed a bit forced. In Germany we have a saying - 'reim dich oder ich schlag dich' - which translates to 'rhyme or I'll hit you'. It was what came to mind during some of the songs. Unfortunately, they weren't the only thing that seemed a tad forced. Especially during the first half of the musical some scenes were just trying too hard to be funny. The over-the-top acting and cheesy punchlines were only topped by a 5 minute scene with giant dresses to a song entitled 'Expressing Yourself'. 

Fortunately, the second half more than made up for the moments of over-the-top-ness. When the musical was finally allowed to be the drama it was based on, some beautiful, heartwarming, and genuinely funny moments left me with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. The acting became believable, the dialogues authentic. The audience was able to really gain insight not only in the challenges faced by Billy but also into the various issues of his family and friends. And then - of course - there was the dancing. While I personally was a bit disappointed by the rather large amount of tap dancing [during a musical built around a boy who wants to be a ballet dancer], the talent of the dancers during those scenes left me not caring what type of dance they were involved in. Plus there were some beautiful ballet scenes too.

I would also like to point out some of the very talented cast. During the showing I was privileged to attend, Billy Elliot was played by Tade Biesinger, a 13-year-old boy who played one of the original Billys on Broadway. He was hugely talented and his sheer joy for dance really made him the perfect match for the role. He shone particularly during his scene with Alexander Loxton, the ballet dancer who playing the older Billy. The role of Michael was also filled by an incredibly talented young boy, Joe Massey, who was a great fit for the role of Billy's overly extrovert yet greatly supportive best friend.
While those two particularly stood out for me, the entire cast was fantastic. Kevin Wathen played Billy's brother Tony with the great passion and drama incorporated in the character, and Anna-Jane Casey brought tears to my eyes as Billy's dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson during the scene of her final goodbye with Billy. Ann Emery caused many of the genuinely funny moments in her role as Billy's iconic 'nan', while Deka Walmsley really did seem the confused yet proud father of a first-generation male ballet dancer. 

Overall, the cast is incredible, the dancing is breathtaking, and the overall atmosphere leaves you with the strange sensation of satisfaction only a truly great show can fill you with. I can highly recommend Billy Elliot - The Musical and would yet again like to thank the team for the opportunity to see it.


In : Musical Review 

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Carla Boyd Welcome to my random collection of thoughts, opinions, ideas, and advice.


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