Billy Elliot The Musical digs deep to impress Melbourne’s opening night crowd
Intense and emotional, this multi-faceted celebration of humanity completely captivates the enthusiastic opening night audience. Led by 11-year-old River Mardesic as Billy Elliot, this production ticks every entertainment box on its 2020 return to Melbourne’s Regent Theatre.
Clever story-telling is at the heart of this show’s success. A whirlpool of emotion, Billy Elliot The Musical explores humanity through dialogue, dance and ongoing juxtaposition of childhood innocence and the pressures of the adult world. The social and political commentary beautifully depicts the historical impact of the miners’ strike, a dark and difficult time in Northern England. Through powerful numbers such as ‘Solidarity’, the audience feels the confusion, anger and depth of passion carried by the miners, while delighting in the innocent (and not so innocent) interactions of cheeky 1980’s children.
Opening with compelling video footage of the 1984/85 strike, the combination of performance, choreography, score, set design and sheer artistry of this complex production wonderfully tells a story within a story. Everyone is intricately involved, including the audience who are quickly drawn into the heart of the township, then entirely united with the Northeners’ struggles, particularly during act two’s ‘Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher’.
Humour is woven throughout. Just as the adult difficulties become overwhelmingly painful to witness, relief is provided through quick-witted dialogue, a fair sprinkle of profanity and hilarious childish interpretation of adult concepts. The partnership of River Mardesic as Billy and Oscar Mulcahy as Michael is perfectly enchanting. Their duet performance ‘Expressing Yourself’ is a definite show-stopper, receiving well-deserved thunderous applause from the enthralled audience.
EIla Tebbut’s characterisation of Debbie rounds out the trio of youthful friendship. Her performance is hilariously enjoyable as she provides ongoing comedic social commentary, while driving her ‘Mam’ (Mrs Wilkinson, played by Lisa Sontag) to recognisable distraction.
Surrounded by a stellar adult cast, these talented young performers are all under the age of 13, yet they show true professionalism in their ability to dance, act and sing for three hours, all-the-while maintaining a Northern English accent. If the Billys, Michaels, Ellas and young ensemble artists are anything to go by, Australian musical theatre has an exciting future ahead.
Throughout Billy Elliot The Musical, Elton John and his creative team tell many stories. Every character has a purpose, every song a social comment. The music and choreography flow seamlessly from style to style through the layers of storylines, intertwining beauty and ugliness, wishes and reality until they reach the moving classical duet Billy dances with his future self. This uplifting moment as Billy finally dares to dream, soaring to his future, unites the townspeople and audience as a whole, revealing what can be achieved if people choose to embrace their true selves and work together to achieve unity, support and happiness.
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