I have seen a lot of productions, both at the Bristol Hippodrome and elsewhere and I think I would say with confidence that Billy Elliot ranks amongst the best shows I have seen both in terms of a gripping story and amazing theatrical production.
The genius of this show is how much is going on whilst keeping everything simple and straightforward. There are two parallel stories running simultaneously, firstly with the story of Billy’s struggle to become a dancer and then the dramatic take on the miners’ strike of the mid 80’s. In addition to this the themes can be likened to a number of other shows all rolled into one.
The aforementioned story of Billy’s struggle can be likened to Matilda where one child’s special gifts are held down by those around them and would never have been realised if not for the support of a single heroine willing to help them realise their true potential, the dramatic dance scenes remind me of those in Footloose where a stomping musical score and exquisite and impassioned dance by the cast portray a number of emotions without a single word being said (much better than the dance scenes in the movie in my opinion). And the light hearted, relentless northern comedy blended with the drama reminded me of The Full Monty.
The only concern this production does raise is its suitability for its audience. The guidance given was that this play was suitable for anyone aged 8 and above, however it is worth noting that this play is as honest as it is excellent and carries with it a flurry of rude language which increases as the show progresses, never quite doing so in a way to totally offend, more surprising and comical but it is shocking, particularly when heard from the very young members of the cast.
I’ve already mentioned the incredible and booming score, but they are complimented by amazing songwriting and music put together by a team of people involving Elton John so you would expect nothing less, and the fantastic voices really do it justice including Billy’s (Haydn May) rendition of the top 5 hit Electricity. The powerful cast chorus will give you tingles down your spine and make your hair stand on end; in particular, the very moving miners songs.
I am still incredibly blown away by just how incredible Haydn May was as Billy Elliot. He is an exceptional talent. A very powerful actor. Not only was his dancing flawless but his deliverance of both the dramatic and comedic was outstanding and let’s not forget his pitch perfect singing. But perhaps most notably was his ability to hold that Northern accent when some of the more maturer actors seemed to struggle in this aspect as I found that some were more likened to Welsh than Northern, but Haydn May was remarkable in this feat. He was the most surprising and welcomed treat. In fact, the young cast in its entirety were highly impressive.
But what I loved most about Billy Elliot was that it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions; it’s funny, courageous, moving, larger than life (dancing clothes is all I’ll say on this!), heartwarming, spirited and quite simply unexpected. Until last night I hadn’t experienced Billy Elliot in any capacity, I no feel like I was missing out. I don’t recommend you miss out either.