(Photo By Joan Marcus)
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL Long May He Fly!
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL, the Tony Winning show has soared into the Broward Center for too brief a stay. Based on the film BILLY ELLIOT, this musical is about dreams, acceptance, and winning against the struggles life may throw our way. BILLY ELLIOT is often reminiscent of A CHORUS LINE, and that is an awesome show to be reminiscent of.
BILLY ELLIOT is not the best of musicals, far from it. Yet, while thinking of the show’s flaws and how certain elements could be tweaked to greatness, I could not help but come to the realization that I loved BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL.
It may be that as simple as watching a show, who’s central character is an adolescent ballet dancing genius, strut his stuff is ultimately difficult to resist. Strut his stuff Billy does as do ultimately all who inhabit the world of Billy Elliot. Peter Darling, the choreographer, is the true star of BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL. His work here is magnificent. One can’t help but notice the theatrical stars aligning with Mr. Darling at the choreographic helm. Darling is the family name of the famously flying Broadway musical PETER PAN. Billy Elliot flying with what is perhaps an older version of himself is this show’s penultimate moment. Watching Billy ‘hooked to the wire’ and flying over the stage while grasping hands with the number’s other fabulous dancer is a happening I will likely never forget. It is this show’s Defying Gravity, or Rose’s Turn or Music And The Mirror and it is nothing short of breathtaking.
(Photo By Joan Marcus)
Billy is played by a series of rotating Billys (as he was on Broadway) throughout this South Florida engagement. Opening night Billy was played by the supremely talented, J.P. Viernes. While not the strongest singer, Mr. Viernes wins our hearts and carries the show with his understated lovely performance highlighted by his huge gifts as a dancer. I must confess that J.P.Viernes being of Asian descent (I do hope I phrased that correctly, certainly not an iota of offense is meant) was a bit distracting as the musical began. His father, mother, grandmother, and brother all seem to be not of Asian heritage. It took a few moments to adjust to our Billy, and adjust we did. Mr. Viernes gave us a Billy to love and to cheer for, and that we did!
Cameron Clifford is a delight in the plum role of Billy’s cross dressing friend Michael. Perhaps the most interesting character in Billy Elliot, Michael is a beautifully written part and along with Billy and the ensemble, he is given one of the show’s best songs, “Expressing Yourself.” Cameron Clifford devours his performance like an endless gourmet buffet. The fact that Mr. Clifford meets his challenges and sparkles in the role of Michael is to state the obvious. He was divine.
The score by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall seamlessly suit the material and at times reaches the stature of thrilling. These times are rare and we could have done with less ‘miner’ songs and more thrilling solos for Billy and his young friend. We would be remiss not to mention the irony that the show’s most spectacular moment, the aforementioned number where Billy flies with an ‘older version of himself,’ is not to original music Mr. John composed for this show, but is danced to music from Tchaikovsky’s SWAN LAKE.
The ensemble is uniformly excellent and those responsible for BILLY ELLIOT’s stagecraft all perform their tasks with excellence and often inspiration, under the sure hand of director Stephen Daldry.