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Billy Elliot The Musical Review

The inspiring story about the boy who swaps boxing gloves for ballet slippers is now on at Curve so we pirouetted our way down there to check it out.

Like me, you probably find yourself drawn to a new theatre show because you’re already a fan of the film. This was definitely the case when I heard about the new production of Billy Elliot the Musical on at Curve.

Based on Stephen Daldry‘s acclaimed 2000 film and set in Thatcher’s Britain, the musical takes us back to the beginning of the 1984 Miners’ Strike when miners left their pits to fight the government who wanted to close the collieries. It was a difficult time for the workers and as a result, families felt let down by the government and struggled with the cost of living. Sound familiar?

Despite the harsh themes of loss, grief, poverty and violence, the message I’ve always loved about Billy Elliot is that even from the most grimmest of situations, something inspiring can happen.

For the new Made at Curve production, Michael Taylor’s set is as impressive as it is bleak – moving industrial walls create a cage (similar to what they did for West Side Story) in which Billy dances and tries to break free. They represent the political and societal unrest during the mid 80s and are also used as walls to separate the conflict between the angry miners and violent police, as well as the strikers and the ‘scabs’

At its heart, is the story of a young boy who just wants to dance – despite all the negativity and macho culture around him. It was local Leicestershire lad, Jaden Shentall-Lee who played Billy when we visited and his performance of ‘Electricity’ in act II was as memorable as it was uplifting.

The relationship between Billy and his father (played by Joe Caffrey, who previously performed in the West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical) was heartwarming but also, at times, hard wrenching because of the personal struggle he’s going through.

With music by Elton John and lyrics by Lee Hall, there may not be a dazzling show-stopper, but there are powerful solo dance sequences from Jaden which will blow you away as he takes over the entire stage.

What I love most about these Made at Curve productions is the team’s dedication to scouting out local talent which, in this musical, makes up the ‘ballet girls and boxing boys.’

Young Prem Masani plays Michael.

A big shout out to young Prem Masani who played Billy’s gay best friend, Michael on the press night. This was his professional stage debut and he definitely won the audience over with his one-liners and encouraging words to his friend.

Sally Ann Triplett makes an excellent Mrs. Wilkinson and I loved seeing her colourful dance outfits and also the way her relationship grew with Billy. The no nonsense but big-hearted dance teacher gives Billy some much-needed maternal loves – something he’s been missing since his mother passed away.

At a time when there’s so much unrest out there, this uplifting, feel-good musical may just be what you need. Go give it a try.

Billy Elliot The Musical is on at Curve until 20 Aug.

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