I am not a fan of musicals. During musical season at school I was stuck between hating musicals and not wanting to go to class so I did what any good skiver would; I got involved backstage. There was no reason for me to miss class in the 5 weeks leading up to the actual show but that didn't stop me from hanging around, pretending to be busy whilst doing absolutely nothing.
I always found the notion of people breaking into song whilst dying of TB or railing against the evil management of an orphanage absolutely ludicrous; you can imagine my delight when the boss man told me I'd be going to see Billy Elliot - The Musical. Then I actually saw the thing and had to change my entire world view because it is wonderful.
Billy Elliot was turned from an award winning film into a musical in 2005. It tells the story of a young boy from the northern English town of Durham who loves to dance. This is seen as something a 'poof' would do and when his brother and father find out he's been taking ballet classes, they stop him. This is all set against the backdrop of the miner's strike in 1984 when the communities of northern England banded together against Margaret Thatcher's Tory government. Eventually, Billy's dad sees him dance and sees what the audience sees, the love, the beauty and the heartbreak that's all within Billy. His father vows to do everything in his power to help Billy become a professional dancer.
I spoke to Jon Finn, the producer of both the film and the musical, about if he always thought that the film would make a good musical.
Elton John wrote the music and it's rousing! I swear, during the song 'Solidarity' I felt like getting up from my seat and marching with the cast against Maggie Thatcher.
One thing about the musical is that there is bad language. I think it adds to the show as it brings you back to the time of 1984 and places you slap bang as you think people would have talked in Northern England at the time.
The set itself is amazing with an entire house coming out of the ground numerous times during the show but, as Jon Finn explains, that comes with its own hazards.
The show is coming to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre on the 26th of July and runs until September 3rd and Jon spoke about why he's looking forward to the show being seen by Irish audiences in Dublin.
This show was magical. One of the reasons that it caught my attention was the dancing itself - Billy doing ballet. It was beautiful and I found myself wanting more. Every time he stopped dancing, I was eagerly waiting for the next moment he was on stage doing his thing. This story is also incredibly funny. Billy's best friend, Michael, is brilliant. His comic timing as good as Will Ferrell's and his story as funny as any of his characters.
Hands up, I cried - twice. The story of Billy's dead mother and his father's broken heart gets you right in the goolies. If you get a chance, go see this show. You won't be disappointed.