Billy Elliot Drury Lane Theatre!

0 Posted by - April 23, 2015 - Musical Direction




(Photo: Brett Beiner)


Something absolutely wonderful can happen when a hit musical is finally liberated from its original Broadway incarnation — no matter how beguiling the original might have been.

As proof you need only witness the astonishingly beautiful, emotionally devastating production that opened Thursday night at the Drury Lane Theatre, where director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell has grabbed hold of Elton John and Lee Hall’s “Billy Elliot” and not only generated a surge of electricity palpable throughout the audience, but probed the very deepest recesses of the show’s enormous heart.




(Photo: Brett Beiner)

Yes, this show was a natural for Rockwell, who possesses a unique gift for working with children (and “Billy Elliot” puts an enormous weight on tiny shoulders), who began her career as a dancer-choreographer (this show is an ode to the way dance, and all the arts, can be a life-changing force), and who has a flair for making historical references in a musical (in this case, the traumatic British miners’ strike of the mid-1980s, during the era of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) come to vivid life. And her production, the first regional edition of the musical — which features an altogether remarkable cast led by 14-year old Nicholas Dantes, an actor, dancer and singer whose performance is shattering on many levels — should now become the standard by which all future versions are measured.

To be sure, “Billy Elliot” — with its alternately earthy and poetic book by Hall, and its soaring score by “Sir Elton” — supplies a supremely rich vein of material to work with, and music director Roberta Duchak (and the fine orchestra led by Colin Welford) pay full honors to it. But what Rockwell and her actors do so brilliantly is to fully evoke the desperate, angry, but heart-on-the-sleeve world of the miners, who sense they are about to become dinosaurs, and to capture their anxious hopes for Billy, whose surprising natural gift for dance is fueled by his antipathy to the brutal world all around him, and by the hope that something better, if almost entirely alien, might save him.



(Photo: Brett Beiner)

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