Theatre review by Hannah Richardson
What can I say about the impressive touring production of Billy Elliot the Musical that’s currently on stage at Milton Keynes Theatre, except: “Go and see it”?
Following a 10-year run in the West End, the smash hit show is in MK until Saturday June 17 on the final leg of its tour, before heading overseas to Germany.
I can’t remember when I last enjoyed a show this much. It had me in tears one minute and howling with laughter the next, and at curtain call the hardworking cast received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984/85 miners’ strike, it follows the journey of Billy who accidentally stumbles into a ballet class, where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.
The show feaures catchy music by Elton John with lyrics by Lee Hall, impressive choreography by Peter Darling and a versatile, ever-changing set by Ian MacNeil.
Four boys alternate in the demanding role of Billy. On press night, Haydn May, aged 12, showed himself to be a natural actor and a truly impressive dancer.
Billy’s friend Michael was played with both comedy and pathos by 12-year-old Henry Farmer and Italia Ross, aged 11, was enjoyably annoying as Debbie.
Anna-Jane Casey is outstanding as dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson (the role played by Julie Walters in the film) after playing the part at the Victoria Palace in the West End in 2014.
Also giving notable performances were Martin Walsh as Billy’s dad and Scott Garnham as Billy’s big brother Tony.
The leading actors are ably supported by an adult ensemble, who double up as riot police and picketing miners, and a suitably motley troupe of ballet girls.
I’d recommend this show to anyone who doesn’t hate musicals – unless you are offended by swearing. There is a fair bit of casual bad language in the show, including some enthusiastic use by the child actors, which could upset some people.
For me, in context, it was not only acceptable but often very funny.