Billy Elliot the Musical

by Michelle  Sandoval
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Apr 23, 2013
The cast of ’Billy Elliot’
The cast of ’Billy Elliot’  

I was graciously invited to attend "Billy Elliot the Musical" at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts this past weekend. A huge fan of the original film, I was excited to trade in my Converse for ballet slippers for an evening that promised to be full of dance, music and fun.

Since its introduction in 2005, "Billy Elliot the Musical" has received numerous awards and accolades. The show is based on the book by Lee Hall, and all music is by Elton John. It tells the story of little Billy, a young boy growing up in Eastern England.

Brought up by his father and older brother, and having lost his mother at a very young age, Billy knows nothing but the rugged life of a coal miner that his authorities personify. Pushed into a boxing ring by his father, he accidentally stumbles into a ballet class after school.

Drawn in by the beauty and grace of the dance, he immediately connects with the art form, and after impressing the instructor he starts down a path that will change his life forever. His personal strife and dreams of becoming a dancer counter the struggles his family, and entire community, are facing during the midst of a horrible miner's strike.

The talented Mitchell Tobin, who alternates with three other young actors in this title role, played the part of Billy. The 12-year-old from Florida claims this is his "dream role," and it becomes evident by watching him that he was, in fact, meant for this.

Dream role or not, just as Billy was destined to be a star, so in fact is Tobin, and this trait simply radiates from him. He was able to tear across the stage with tremendous, electric force in moments of frustration, just as easily as he seemed to gracefully float away with his beautiful Arabesques. He shines bright and inspires hope against a backdrop of darkness and chaos.

Janet Dickinson is simply delightful as Billy's dance instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson. The chain smoking, rough and tumble woman sees a gift in the boy and takes him under her wing from the start. Dickinson plays the part well, finding just the right balance between an unrelenting instructor and a nurturing mother figure.

Young Mitchell Tobin was able to tear across the stage with tremendous, electric force in moments of frustration, just as easily as he seemed to gracefully float away with his beautiful Arabesques.

Sam Poon, who played Billy's best friend Michael, delivered another exceptional performance. His scenes are some of the most memorable and the friendship between the two boys is truly touching. As a young boy struggling with his sexuality, Michael personifies tolerance to the core. "Expressing Yourself," a musical duet with Michael and Billy, is a show stealer and definitely one of the performance's brilliant moments.

Some of the most memorable scenes in the production are those shared by Billy and the spirit of his "Mum," played by Molly Garner. The heart wrenching musical number "Dear Billy" is a letter from a dying mother to her son. Meant to be opened years after her death, the note highlights important moments between a mother and child that she would have missed out on, and apologizes for not being there. Billy has the entire thing memorized and it is with his vulnerable recitation of the letter that we see where he truly draws his inspiration.

The cast is rounded out with the remaining Elliot clan: Rich Herbert (Dad), Patti Perkins (Grandma), Cullen R.Titmas (Tony). All portray their characters well and are admirable in the way they all rally together in support of Billy in trying times.

"Billy Elliot the Musical" is directed by Stephen Daldrey who was fortunate to be favored with such talented individuals. Together they bring to life Billy's journey, which culminates in a spirited celebration. And hats off to choreographer Peter Darling, because just like Billy wouldn't be himself without the dance, neither would this performance.

Much like Billy's journey, the production also has its rough moments. The accents are hard to interpret at times and you might find yourself lost in the North England tongue. However, the cast is superb and their efforts ultimately come off as charming despite any confusion.

Also, the contrast between delicate ballerinas and rugged miners is perhaps too extreme when sharing a stage. Both seem to lose their own separate importance and identity as they become muddled together during certain scenes.

In the end, "Billy Elliot the Musical" will be enjoyed by all, regardless of whether you prefer the dust of the coalmines or the elegance of a ballerina bar. The show is itself everything that Billy himself embodies -- passion, emotion, and most of all, electricity. It will dance delicate circles around your heart, hitting all the right steps along the way.

"Billy Elliot the Musical" runs through Apr. 28 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. For tickets or more information call 714-556-2121 or visit www.SCFTA.org.

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