Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 19, 2013

Billy Elliot, The Musical

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through June 23, 2013
by Shera Cohen

Noah Parets IS Billy Elliot. Noah Parets makes “Billy Elliot” a character-centered, poignant, humorous, and strong musical. While “Billy” boasts a large cast of perhaps 40 singers, dancers, and actors, this impish spitfire 13-year-old steals the show. But, then, that’s his job, and Parets takes command in a boyish manner that never steals scenes from others. The bottom line – this boy is an exemplary talent with a remarkable future in dance.

The backdrop is a piece of British history during the coalminers strike in the mid-1980’s when poor towns people vs. police and community vs. government. This is a bit of a political drama, with the audience leaning toward the plight of the coalminers. More so, it is a drama of circumstances with one family at the crux, particularly one young boy. The musical closely resembles the movie version. The plot is the unexpected dream of Billy to become a ballet dancer – certainly not the career his widowed dad picks for him. Then there’s the ever-present assumption that a boy who dances is a sissy. “Not my son.”

Billy dances up a storm throughout the two-hour musical. While the Elton John music is oftentimes lovely (“Dear Billy”) or funny (“We’d Go Dancing”) or haunting (“Once We Were Kings”), it’s the music that thrusts Billy into non-stop action that makes this an excellent production with a long life. Billy proves his stuff to the judges and to his dad in “Electricity.” The end of Act I’s “Angry Dance” pushes and shoves Billy in the midst of the political factions. As the dance’s title indicates, this boy is angry, the world is angry, and Billy is angry at the world. Powerful stuff with lots of percussion from the excellent pit band. However, Billy’s ballet, accompanied by his older self to “Swan Lake” is one (there are several) of the showstoppers.

Special kudos should be handed out in various categories: a charming Cameron Clifford as Billy’s cross-dressing little buddy, the lighting designer who creates giant shadows for Billy to dance with, a cast of little girls who fake bad dancing very well, and to Tony Award-winning choreographer Peter Darling. Billy’s moves combine boyish awkwardness with mature skill – a contrast at best that works superbly.