BILLY ELLIOT at San Diego Musical Theatre proves that no matter how crazy the dream, “all you really have to do is shine.”
Billy is a young boy in a Northern England mining town that is impacted by a strike. There is a gravity to the towns struggle to survive, and the violence the strikers are met with, that is matched by the hope and promise of Billy’s discovery of his love of ballet.
Based on a 2000 movie of the same name, this Elton John and Lee Hall (who also wrote the screenplay) uses dance and songs as the central characters to tell this story. Billy is a motherless boy, who lives with his Dad (Doug Tompos) and brother Tony (Luke Monday), and Grandma (a very funny Alexandra Gonzales). Hi Dad and Tony are both miners on strike, but his Dad makes sure he always has the money to go to boxing class each week. One day he misses most of boxing and ends up in the ballet class taught by Mrs. Wilkinson (Joy Yandell).
This is a very strong ensemble, with wonderful harmony and strong performances. Stand out performances by Doug Yompos, as Billy’s Dad and Joy Yandell as Mrs. Wilkenson the dance teacher help ground Billy and the performances in excellence.
It’s the kids here who really steal the show, as they should in a story about a little boy who wants to dance. So it’s fitting that the actor who is the most astonishing is also the title character of Billy, played by Charlie Garton, who is the star.
At only 10 years old Garton has a wonderful presence, an excellent grasp on a very difficult accent, a good voice, and of course he is a strong dancer.
Hi friend Michael, Mackernan Jarman, brings some lovely laughs to the show as Billy’s friend who likes to wear dresses, and encourages Billy that “Expressing Yourself” is the only way to go. This number features some infectiously fun tap dancing as well.
Directed by Neil Dale, this show stays tightly paced and quick moving. This allows the blend of funnier to more tense scenes seem to flow naturally into each other, while not slowing the action. Choreographed by Jared Nelson, the Associate Artistic Director of the California Ballet, uses this mix in his dances as well. The choreography and mix of the angry miners, antagonistic policemen, and the little ballerinas (and one Billy) in “Solidarity” not only highlights the town dynamics of violent strike and the kids of the town, creates a particularly stand out number.
The first act closes with another highlight number, the “Angry Dance” where Billy dances a duet with his older self, Zachary Guthier of the California Ballet, which is very impressive.
This show is set in Northern England and the cast has the accent to match – so sometimes it’s a bit hard to understand them. There is a lot of strong language in the show, so be aware of that before you take little kids.
Overall this is a show that takes its own advice from the song “Shine” and does just that.
Don’t miss it at San Diego Musical Theater through October 8th at the Spreckels Theatre. For ticket and show time information go to http://www.sdmt.org