Friday, January 16, 2015

Billy Elliot the Musical Live (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A talented young dancer has to learn to fight for his dream despite social and parental disapproval.
Directed by Brett Sullivan. Starring Elliott Hanna, Ruthie Henshall, Deka Walmsley, and Ann Emery.

(Mild spoilers.)

The original movie is one of my favorites, and though this ends up having a very different focus than the movie did, I liked this quite a lot as well.

While the film version focuses most heavily on Billy himself and on his journey out of his town to pursue his dreams, the musical spends a LOT more time with the residents of the town. This does a nice job fleshing out the atmosphere and the story, but the end result is... very sad. As Billy leaves, the show's final image is his best friend Michael, staring after him as he walks off. This makes the show seem almost like it wasn't about Billy at all, but instead about this town where very few are able to escape the poverty and the slow death of their village. Billy's the lucky one, the one who's just talented enough to be able to make something of himself elsewhere... but in this version, he is not celebrated so much as his family and friends are mourned. It becomes a big, sad group story. And although this shift was unexpected... I like it. Not maybe as much as the original, but there's something very moving here. I can see why this won all the awards it did.

Interestingly enough, in this musical review, I don't have much to say about the music. The songs are fine. Some are more interesting than others. I've been a fan of "Electricity" ever since I heard the original cast recording, and it is definitely a standout moment here. Also notable are "Shine" and "Grandma's Song." The dancing is great to watch as well. But it's the script and the overall story that wins here.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #509 out of 2302, below Bicentennial Man and above Heavenly Creatures.

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