Billy Elliot is not my lover; he’s just a boy who says that he wants to DANCE! – A Billy Elliott review

It’s been a while since we’ve taken in a stage show, having missed The Lion King when it was here for a short stint while Ashley was in Europe. So when we were given a chance to see Billy Elliot last night at the Canon Theatre, we were quite eager to get back at it. And thanks to Veronica’s awful cold (really, who gets sick in the summer?) and antibiotics preventing us from grabbing a pre-show drink, we were actually early for a show for probably the first time ever!

Based on the internationally acclaimed film, Billy Elliot follows Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, discovering a surprising talent for dance that inspires his family and his whole small English community and changes his life forever.

Brought to life by a phenomenal cast of forty five performers, half of who were kids barely even into their teens, Billy Elliot is quick to step up with fancy footwork that doesn’t stop until the end. Having absolutely no dance talent ourselves, it’s incredible to see children of such a young age possess such immaculate control over their movements and the ability to express themselves on stage without saying a single word.

In last night’s production, eleven year old Billy Elliot was played by Julian Elia and while this tiny boy doesn’t look like much, when he takes that stage and starts dancing, it’s enough to make anyone sit back and give him the spotlight as though he’s been claiming it for years. From ballet to tap to more interpretive dance, this kid could do it all, something he proved with the closing number of the first act appropriately called Angry Dance. That was the point where you know Billy means business.

It wasn’t just Elia up there proving he has what it takes. The young girls in the ballet class moved across that stage with comedic grace, though their ear-piercing girlish screams and sighs bordered on irritating and Dillon Stevens, who played Billy’s cross dressing, tutu loving friend Michael, had enough flare to give Elia a run for his money. Billy’s aloof father (David Keeley) reminded us of a small town, passive Will Ferrell at times, at least from our mid-section seats, and his grandmother (Cindy Benson) was throwing out laughable lines almost as often as she gave someone the middle finger.

Kate Hennig brought Mrs. Wilkinson to life and took an aggressive satisfaction as the person responsible for pushing Billy to accomplish his dreams while having to stand her ground against his hard headed father and a town full of aggressive miners. Girl Power. We can’t forget, of course, Billy’s older brother Tony, played by none other than Degrassi alum Jake Epstein, who did a fantastic job as a passionate miner unwilling to back down from what he believes in, even when it puts him in the line of fire.

Though the focus of the play is dance, it’s hard not to notice the accompanying music, especially when it’s done by the legendary Elton John. Catchy, expressive tunes that match the energy of the dance numbers act as the perfect accessory to move the story along and push this play from a dance heavy performance to an actual story driven play. The music is the component that brings the whole thing together.

While the cross dressing scene with the giant dancing dresses was… something, and a close second, our favourite number was performed by Billy’s bitter Grandmother, expressing her dislike of her deceased husband throughout their entire marriage – unless they were dancing. Take a few minutes to read these lyrics and you’ll understand why this song is now our new theme song:

If I’d only known then what I know now I’d’ve given them all the finger and gone dancing and not give a sh*t and spin around and reel and love each bit. And I’d dance alone and enjoy it. And I’d be me for an entire life instead of somebody’s wife and I never would be sober.
And I never would be sober.

The only complaint with the show, other than the poor British accents, was the puppets. Those of you who aren’t aware, Veronica has a very odd fear of puppets, so you can only imagine her state of mind when the second act opened with a Christmas pageant that not only featured a number of hand puppets, but also a giant Margaret Thatcher paper mache-looking marionette that came out of nowhere and snaked its lanky arms out over the stage, determined to claw at Veronica with its long, pointy fingers. Shudder.

Billy Elliot runs until September 3, so you still have time to get your dance on. Buy Tickets.

Images from official website and Google images.