A Review Crew Review – Billy Elliot at Playhouse Square

This week, thanks to my participation in the Review Crew, I was lucky enough to catch a showing of Billy Elliot at the stunning State Theater of Playhouse Square.  If you haven’t seen the show yet, you should really buy tickets.  The choreography is stunning, and the children dancers are incredible. There’s a reason it won 10 Tony Awards, including best musical. In fact, there’s never a better time to buy tickets – I got an email from Playhouse Square today saying they’re having a super Cyber Monday online shopping event.

Before you rush to see it, however, I would recommend you do your homework and come prepared. It’s not a musical I’d necessarily recommend seeing blind. In order to have the best experience, here’s how to make sure you’re prepared before seeing Billy Elliot:

  1. Read up on your British miners’ history: Much of the play relies on the audience’s knowledge of key events in the British coal industry. The UK Miners’ Strike sets the stage for the play, and if you don’t see the movie ahead of time, or know about this historical event, you’re likely to be confused. What, you don’t know the 1984 miners’ strike like the back of your hand? Don’t worry, neither did I, seeing as it started before I was even born. So I read about it before seeing the play.  Don’t know where to start? Wikipedia’s entry can’t hurt.
  2. Come prepared to be wowed by the dancing, but don’t expect to be singing all of the songs on your way home. The dancing was amazing. Incredible. Breathtaking. [insert random synonym here] I mean, how often do you see a young boy tap dancing and jumping rope at the same time? I’ve never even seen that on DWTS! The music, however, failed to win me over. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the music, especially the Expressing Yourself number (my favorite!) – but with a score by Elton John, I had hoped the mind-blowing dancing would be accompanied by equally contagious music.
  3. It may be filled with talented kid actors (I even heard that they have 50 20 children traveling with them for all the different parts) – but it’s not necessarily for kids. The plotline can be confusing (especially with the British history … see #1) and the play is filled with foul language – the majority of it coming from the young kids themselves! I wasn’t offended by any of the language (yes, there were even a few f-bombs), but I could imagine a mom taking her children to see the play worrying that her kids would imitate the children’s language. It’s definitely not worse than anything many shows on TV, but parents should be aware of the language coming from the young stars. (Side note – I heard the US version of Billy Elliot has been toned down significantly, so I can’t imagine what the language in the original British version was like!)
  4. Expect to be inspired and amazed by Billy … but don’t sleep on the other characters. Billy, played by Giuseppe Bausilio when I saw it, was amazing. ‘Nuff said. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off Jacob Zelonky who plays his friend Michael. He was my favorite character – not only was his character complex, but he was an amazing dancer and he completely stole the Expressing Yourself scene. And who could forget Billy’s dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson? The part of Mrs. Wilkinson was played by Tony Award-winning Faith Prince, who received loud applause the moment she stepped on stage. Her singing, dancing and overall presence was incredible – you won’t be disappointed.
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4 thoughts on “A Review Crew Review – Billy Elliot at Playhouse Square

  1. Thanks for the great review of a wonderful show. I agree that it is best to get the basics of the miners situation before you go but I know plenty of people have still enjoyed it without doing that.

    From what I have been told the bad language has been toned down a lot not just from the UK show but also from the NY show. I think if parents explain to their kids beforehand that just because they hear it on stage it does not give them the right to use it. In London for the Thursday matinee they even get a lot of school parties going to the show. At the end of the day though the final choice is whether a parent thinks it is right for their child – and that is how it should be.

  2. Great summary of the show! In the interest of accuracy, however, there are actually only 20 kids in the cast (out of a total cast of 47). This is a slightly smaller number than in some of the other productions of the show. The 2nd Tour cast carries 5 Billys, 2 Michaels, 1 Debbie, 1 Small Boy and 1 Tall Boy/Posh Boy and 10 Ballet Girls. It may SEEM like more children at times because, like the adult cast, many of them play multiple parts in the show.

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