Archive for November 22nd, 2007

Billy Elliot – Victoria Palace

November 22, 2007

I’m writing this review in retrospect and it’s so hard to figure out how to describe Billy Elliot. The theater was packed to the rafters, there were people there I would normally never see in a theater (they just looked different, like they’d be more prone to seeing concerts or football matches), there was more merchandise on sale than I’d ever seen for a play …

And it was all just so generally boring. There was no acting, there was no character arc, and there was very little good dancing (despite there being a fair amount of it). So there was a “story” and some “characters” and some singing and dancing, but it just didn’t really add up to much for me.

Still, the theater was packed. I’ve had to ask myself, “What am I not getting?” I didn’t live through the Thatcher age, I didn’t live through the mines being shut down, and I didn’t really grow up in an English small town (no, I grew up in the Arizona desert, in a large but not cosmopolitan city). I think, to some extent, a lot of the popularity of this show has to do with its cultural relevance. And, I don’t know, little boys in drag tapdancing – who wouldn’t love that? Still, I have to judge it against what I know, which is the body of song and dance numbers in all of the shows I’ve seen, and since I didn’t leave the show humming the songs and actually cringed at some of the dancing (though I did like the  miners’  numbers and the dream sequence) … I did not like Billy Elliot, and I don’t think it’s because I didn’t get it. Or then again, maybe that’s exactly what kept me from liking it. But they must not care about the opinions of people like me, because, with a huge house like that packed to the rafters, they don’t have to – and good for them. A whole legion of young male dancers is coming up through this show, and in the years to come, I will reap the benefits of this show as the boys that started in it make their way onto the London stage, and the pipeline for male performers widens at the bottom as parents across the country (I hope) encourage their sons to look at learning what it would take to be the next Billy Elliot – either in this musical or elsewhere in the performing arts.

(This review is for a performance on Thursday, November  22, 2007.)