Billy Elliot The Musical

by | May 15, 2024

 

Review by Annie Zeleznikow

 

CLOC’s production of Billy Elliot the Musical follows young Billy (Lukas Elliott at this performance, Sebastian Sero at other performances) as he navigates the dichotomy of life in a small coal mining town and his growing inexplicable love of dance. Billy Elliot the Musical is an adaptation of the 2000 film of the same name. With music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, and original direction by Stephen Daldry, this specific production is an excellent recreation of their work.

 

 

Directed by Lynette White and Chris White, this production sets a high standard as the Victorian amateur premiere of Billy Elliot the Musical and will likely set the standard for all future amateur productions in the state. This production of Billy Elliot provides an opportunity for this story to reach new audiences, such as myself. By bringing this production back to Victoria, CLOC has made the arts more accessible to all those enthralled by Musical Theatre.

 

 

The National Theatre was transported back to 1984 with the aid of atmospheric preshow videos of Margaret Thatcher, setting the backdrop of the coal miners strikes. The combination of fog and a well-designed set (designed by Chris White) maintained the façade of the small British town from decades gone by. The addition of English accents (dialect coach Lisa Dallinger) kept the audience in rural England. The walls of the school gym stood sturdy throughout the show, as different set pieces created new rooms and locations. The 80’s costumes (designed by Victoria Horne) were appropriately sad and greatly contributed to the depressive atmosphere so aptly achieved in this production. Despite the mostly dark and gloomy costumes, there was a bright and unexpected tap number, that notably contained some wild and wonderful costume choices.

 

 

Lighting throughout the show (designed by Brad Alcock) supported both the gloomy atmosphere and the dreamy dance sequences as required. The capacity for lighting to drastically change the mood and atmosphere successfully throughout the show impressively engaged audiences. The sound design (Marcello Lo Ricco) remained balanced throughout the performance, allowing for the actors and musicians to shine.

 

 

The large ensemble songs were particularly moving, as the combination of vocal harmonies and coordinated movement swelled with emotion. Moments of the ensemble choreography (choreographed by Lynette White) highlighting the dichotomy of dancers and miners entertained and delighted. The choreography built tension seamlessly and powerfully. The live orchestra that played throughout the show soulfully accompanied the performers on stage. The musical direction (by David Clausen-Wisken) pulled together many musical moving parts to create a warm and full sound. In particular, a lovely trumpet stood out as providing additional heart and rhythm to the show. David Clausen-Wisken also designed the wigs and make-up for this production, definitively exhibiting his many skills.

 

Michael (Angus Hutchinson at this performance, Harrison Lloyd at other performances) was silly yet sweet, as he watched Billy grow into a ballet dancer. Billy (Lukas Elliott) remained gentle throughout the show, despite a rough exterior and bravado commonly found among young men living in the 80’s.

 

 

Billy’s father, Jackie Elliott (Chris Hughes), provided some devastatingly sad vocals. Billy and Jackie’s relationship was a clear example of a child shouldering the emotional burden of a parent, heartbreakingly emphasising the dysfunctional familial relationships in the show. Lynnette White and Chris White as co-directors were able to emphasis the emotional heart of the show in the characters’ relationships, balancing dense content with moments of light-hearted humour. White and White were able to emphasise a childlike silliness and wonder while grounding the show in dark and heartbreaking themes.

 

 

Mrs. Wilkinson (Melanie Ott) delightfully enters Billy’s life when he accidentally attends her ballet class. Ott’s powerful vocals and warm demeanor was a perfect addition to this production. Mrs. Wilkinson acts as an emotional anchor for Billy, grounding his dreams of dancing and helping make them a reality. Mrs. Wilkinson is often found accompanied by her daughter Debbie (Emily Bond-Fuller at this performance, Isla Everett at other performances), who along with Michael, offers her friendship to Billy.

 

 

When Billy pirouettes successfully for the first time the music swelled, and the combination of Lukas Elliott’s acting and dancing filled me with hope and passion. At that moment Billy was an uplifting beacon of possibility, and Lukas Elliott embodied that.

 

Billy Elliot the Musical is playing at the National Theatre until May 25th

 

For more information and tickets: https://www.cloc.org.au/

 

Photo credit: Ben Fon

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