Sometimes when a show has been around for a few years, has made a huge splash on Broadway winning ten Tony Awards, has a PBS special about it and has rave reviews, the hype surrounding the show can become bigger than the show itself. This could quite possibly be the case for Billy Elliot, which is closing up its run at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Billy Elliot is a good show, and perhaps standing alone, a great show. However, when something fresh fun and full of extremely talented people comes along, it can be built up so much that it’s potential to wow its audiences become a bigger feat than anyone could ever hope to meet.
There are four Billy’s cast in this particular production, and having seen the show only once I can only comment on Zach Manske’s performance. Mankse is an absolutely stunning dancer, which is to be expected. In fact, anything less would be a bitter disappointment. The first Act is not overly exciting. The dancing is subpar, which is part of the story itself. Billy doesn’t really commit himself to dancing until Act II. Therefore the rest of the musical is put on full display in Act I and it has a hard time standing alone. The music is not bad, but nothing to sing home about, until you wake up the next morning with “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” stuck in your head which forces you to look up the album in order to remove the catchy tune from your thoughts.
However the real star of this show is the dancing as well as Cameron Clifford who played Billy’s best friend Michael. Clifford stole the show every second he was on the stage. Absolute dynamite packed in a tiny package and with a voice that probably did not need a microphone. His tap dancing kept up with, and perhaps surpassed that of Manske, and their duet, “Expressing Yourself” will definitely make you smile.
As is the case with many musicals, Act II of Billy Elliot far surpasses the first. Early on in Act II Billy performs a Pas de Deux with his future self that is absolutely breathtaking. Floating across the fog covered stage, the two dancers perform beautiful steps simultaneously and future Billy flings his young self into the air with graceful ease. Half way through the dance young Billy gets strapped to a pulley and future Billy flings him up into the air and he goes soaring up into the rafters. One extremely impressive section occurs when young Billy spins for what seems an eternity up in the air, twirling and twirling until he is lowered back onto the stage, where he performs a perfect closing dance pattern which includes more spins and jumps and ends perfectly on spot facing his not-to-pleased father.
That dance alone is worth seeing this musical. Peter Darling has done an excellent job choreographing this show. What impressed me most was the young talent in this show. This particular cast featured those who are new to the stage, some who performed in Billy Elliot on Broadway as well as those who have been around for a very long time. The youngsters stole the show entirely and they instill an immense amount of hope. Perhaps the arts do have a chance when there are at least four boys (and several more if you look at all of the productions of this show that have taken place) who can perform a Pas de Deux as I described above, then there must be hope for the future of musical theatre and dance specifically. Billy Elliotis a fun show, but its core message of a boy who just wants a chance at life and gets that chance through his dancing is one that people need to see. It is a message that is getting lost and ignored in today’s world, but the arts are an important part of what mold many people, whether they go into that profession or not and the tale of a coal miner’s boy leaping his way into a new life is one that many people need to seriously consider.