Triumph En Pointe Over Adversity: Billy Elliot

Dallas audiences experienced a real stage delight when 2009’s multiple Tony Award winner Billy Elliot The Musical stomped, pirouetted and sashayed its energized, heart-warming way across the Winspear Opera House stage June 8-19. Sometimes touring show casts seem to perform by rote or sleepwalk their roles.

The press night performance of Billy Elliott June 9, featuring Giuseppe Bausilio in the title role, was as fresh and focused as one could hope for. The cast earned the cheers, resounding applause and standing ovation it received at performance conclusion.

Based on the international award-winning Oscar nominated film Billy Elliott, both directed by acclaimed Stephen Daldry, the musical portrays the story of a working class British mineworkers’ son who aches to become a professional ballet dancer.  His at first tentative attempts to dance then brave determined commitment to rise above a menial existence play out against the background of the massive 1980’s coal industry strike when PM Margaret Thatcher broke the labour unions and ultimately ended Britain’s coal industry. Billy symbolizes the one hope for transcendence and triumph over adversity for his entire small town, as crushingly dire as their circumstances are. Woven throughout the fifteen musical numbers that drive the plot, Billy, his fellow dance students and the miners dance explosively and evocatively, sometimes in contrasting conjunctive overlap, using multi-layered modern, jazz, tap, musical theatre and ballet styles to convey the rich emotional turf they traverse. Bausilio as Billy infused such expressive joy and energy in his dancing and convincing courageous realism in his acting it didn’t matter that his singing was just average. He swept the town’s heart and soul up with his lofty aspirations, and the audience came right along, willingly. Dynamic choreography by Peter Darling and a sharp-edged, layered, full perspective, fast change flexible set by Ian MacNeil complimented Elton John’s haunting score and created an ideal world in which a young boy could discover and latch tight onto his dreams. The Act I finale “Angry Dance” and Act II’s “Electricity” had the audience roaring approval, both for the marvellous execution by Bausilio as Billy and both numbers’ driving, raw expression of raw human emotion. Griffin Birney added welcome comic charm to the show as Billy’s cross-dressing chum Michael. Musical theatre is alive and well- easy to see how Billy Elliot The Musical garnered the 2009 Tony Best Musical and earned “Best Musical of the Decade” status from Time Magazine.

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