We can all see a little of ourselves in Billy Elliot. From the moment he falls in love with ballet, to when he “comes out” to his family about his secret passion to his compelling declaration of self-expression in the form of dance, Billy Elliot’s journey resonates with audiences. Particularly the LGBT community.
Billy Elliot, the film created in 2000, inspired the 10-time Tony-award-winning Broadway show, Billy Elliot the Musical. Elton John pitched the idea of making the film into a musical to director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Lee Hall. Soon after the trio adapted the story for the stage complete with an Elton John score.
Set in a small town in England, during the miners strike in 1984, eleven-year-old motherless Billy trades in boxing gloves for ballet shoes. His teacher recognizes his talent and encourages him to continue dancing against his macho, miner father and brother’s wishes.
Billy’s foul-mouthed, chain-smoking ballet teacher, Ms. Wilkerson, played by Janet Dickinson, might have a hard exterior but has a heart of gold. She acts as a fairy godmother (in zany 80’s dance garb) by giving him private ballet lessons to achieve his dream of trying out for the Royal Ballet School.
Billy’ decision to dance is supported by several characters, who encourage him to be himself, starting with his flamboyant cross-dressing best friend Michael.
Michael, played by Cameron Clifford, proudly raids his mother’s closet in the campy over-the-top showstopper, “Expressing Yourself.” He encourages Billy to dance if he wants too. He confidently declares, “What the hell is wrong with expressing yourself?” while in a dress and tap dancing along with Billy in front of a glittery waterfall.
Juxtaposed against Michael’s flashy character is Billy’s dead mum, who lives through a letter she wrote to Billy before she died. Emotion is high when listening to “The Letter,” where she writes, “In everything you do, always be yourself, Billy, and you always will be true.” Her words propel Billy to continue to dance even though his father and brother do not accept him.
Equally touching is when Billy’s dad, Jackie, finally watches Billy dance and sees how talented and passionate he is about ballet. Billy’s dad and brother finally accept him when Billy becomes a ray of hope during a tough economic time.
You can’t deny that teenager Ben Cook, who plays Billy, is incredibly talented. From his tap dancing to pirouettes to his incredible singing voice, Cook undoubtedly delivers a dazzling performance.
Although the characters’ Geordie accents were more distracting than valuable, the overall cast performance was memorable. The choreography surprisingly is very diverse encompassing not just ballet but jazz, tap, hip-hop and acrobatics, which made for an electrifying and entertaining show.
The message is clear. Billy Elliot the Musical sends a positive message to audiences everywhere to embrace their individuality and talent. It promotes acceptance and love to everyone who is different. It shares with people that it’s okay to be yourself, a story every LGBT person wants to hear and experience.
Billy Elliot the Musical is now showing at Bass Concert Hall until Sunday, Dec. 16.