22nd Mar, 2017

REVIEW - Billy Elliot the Musical - Birmingham Hippodrome

Ian Hughes 9th Mar, 2017

Billy Elliot the Musical – Birmingham Hippodrome

Billy Elliot finally hot-foots onto the Birmingham stage.

There’s a good reason why the hit West End musical has been playing to packed houses around the world for the past 12 years – the feel-good factor.

Most are of course familiar with the story before they even take their seat having seen the film version. Set in the troubled days of the miner’s strike in the mid 1980s, working class 12 year-old Billy discovers a love and natural talent for ballet which takes him away from the hardship of life in his dying County Durham pit village home to the bright lights of the London stage and stardom.

It’s a story both poignant and humorous and this stage version delivers in buckets.

Lewis Smallman was the young Billy – from the four playing the role – chosen to slip on the dancing shoes for the press night, and a fantastic job he made of it, never putting a foot wrong. There is a wonderful aerial dance routine with older Billy (Luke Cinque-White).

His rapport with mate Michael, played by Elliot Stiff, was particularly special, and never more so than when the pair donned women’s clothes and were joined in a routine by 8ft high dancing dresses.

There is solid support throughout, from chain-smoking dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson (Annette McLaughlin) to his miner dad and brother (Martin Walsh and Scott Garham), who both need some convincing as to Billy’s dance dream.

The production, while a little loose in places, is bursting with invention, from police and miners clashing in cleverly choreographed routines, to a panto-like puppet put-down of the then Tory Government, concluding with the appearance of a giant Mrs T puppet.

While the appearances of a massive Maggie would have brought back a few nightmares for some audience members of a certain age, a few parents accompanied by impressionable offspring may have found some of the choice language a little close to the bone.

The whole affair is accompanied by Elton John’s score – which in truth does not stick in the mind in the same was as the likes of Born to Boogie or Town Called Malice heard in the film.

Billy’s overdue arrival in Birmingham is well-worth hot-footing along to.

Billy Elliot the Musical runs until April 29. Visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com for tickets and further details.