Wow. I can tell you instantly that it takes a lot for me to join in on a standing ovation as it is often forced from an encore or just unnecessary but tonight, I was one of the first to rise.
Musicals about real-life events are often, in my opinion, flat and dragged out but this is 3 hours of the haunting truth of the miners battle against Margaret Thatcher back in the 1980’s. On top of the factual basis is a story which many of us can relate too, a story of pride. The musical follows the same story line as the film so I’m not going to rattle on about that anymore.
Tonight, (Wed 8th March) Billy was played by Lewis Smallman, a young boy who’s roots are just down the road in West Bromwich. He is completely captivating and it is terrifying how much talent he possesses. Child actors are always talented but this boy (and the three others who will no doubt match Lewis) carries the entirety of the show and barely leaves the stage. He goes from strength to strength through pirouetting across the stage, belting out constant heartwarming numbers and angrily tapping the hell out of his feet. If ever there was a triple threat, Lewis Smallman is just that.
Comedy is notorious for being difficult to pull off but young Elliot Stiff seems to do it with ease as the charismatic Michael, a character that we love and accept without question. Expressing Yourself is the biggest show-stopper with the most imaginative costumes in the production, this song shows off Stiff’s comedy timing with his musical talent and asks us all ‘What the hell is wrong with expressing yourself?’ – something I believe should be said more frequently as life is to short to be someone that you are not and this show highlights, underlines and bold’s this statement for us all.
And it doesn’t stop there. The comedy continues with Mrs Wilkinson, a part that sparks the name Julie Walters in your head but trust in me when I say that Annette McLaughlin excels in the role. Right from her first number, Annette gives us far more than the old ‘razzle dazzle’ with a straight-talking, supportive sole who knows herself all to well and isn’t afraid to push for what is right.
Martin Walsh and Scott Garnham clash throughout to deliver pure gritty drama that we anxiously watch unfold. They both, in turn, create nail-biting tension causing every hair on your body to stand and the goosebumps come out to watch.
The ensemble are the heart of this production with the biggest numbers to tackle. ‘Solidarity’ is THE greatest number to ever be staged within a musical – the choreography is formed with military precision and has been cleverly manipulated to show the deeper meaning of each song and dance.
Ian Macneil has ingeniously made a very complicated, well thought out set look simple and, most importantly, real. This is not a lavish, no expense spared, Broadway show, it is a British musical which stays true to the heritage that we pride ourselves on. Elton John is a living legend who’s music is a testament to his talent, and this show, in my opinion, is the highlight of his career.
★★★★★ An electrifying British musical with a huge heart and mighty punch.
Billy Elliot is now playing at the Birmingham Hippodrome and runs until Saturday 29 April with tickets from £25. To book click here.