I was one of the lucky ones who had the chance to see Billy Elliot: The Musical on Broadway before it closed on January 8, 2012. Although this scaled-down NETworks version may lose some of its grandiose sets and sparkle, Billy Elliot still transmits enough electricity to power all of Columbus' Palace Theatre.
Based on the 2000 film and winner of 10 Tony Awards including "Best Musical," the story follows 11-year old Billy who discovers an incredible talent for dance while stumbling upon a class comprised of average ballet dancers after his unsuccessful boxing lesson. Dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (played remarkably by Leah Hocking) immediately recognizes his talent and encourages him to continue his lessons unbeknownst to his family. While at first strongly opposing Billy's undeniable talent and desire to dance, his family and community eventually come together to support his dreams.
A political aspect is also present, in which workers including his father (Rich Herbert) and brother (standout actor Cullen R. Titmas) strike against the union over their coal mining jobs during Margaret Thatcher's era.
Elton John's lush score with outstanding book and lyrics by Lee Hall is comprised of breathtaking music paired by the mind-blowing choreography of Peter Darling. Set design by Ian MacNeil is effective, yet at times is too oversized and clunky for the small stage. This is specifically true in the design of Billy's bedroom. As exhausted as the Billys must be from their extravagant dance numbers, they should not be pushing any sets across the stage.
The incredibly taxing title role of Billy Elliot is rotated among four young actors. At this performance, Ty Forhan gives a fine performance, and is especially gifted in his flawless ballet and gymnastics moves. Unfortunately, I did not feel the raw, passionate explosion necessary in his "Angry Dance," and at times he seemed a little detached and methodical in his delivery. However, the ballet duo with his future self was truly a magical moment, and "Dear Mum" was an expressive tear-jerker.
Jacob Zelonky is delightful in the role of Billy's flamboyant friend, "Michael." His comic scene-stealing number with Billy, "Expressing Yourself" is a hilarious much-needed relief in the show. Samantha Blaire Cutler plays a spunky "Debbie," the daughter of Mrs. Wilkinson, who is natural and unaffected. Likewise, all the ballet girls collectively give a magnificent performance as they muddle through their dance moves with absolute precision.
BroadwayWorld's own San Francisco Award-Winner, Joel Blum, gives a stellar performance as the comical boxing coach, "George," and Patti Perkins is lovely as Billy's "Grandma."
Billy Elliot: The Musical is a powerful, uplifting account of hard work, hope, survival, and dreams, beautifully married to an outstanding score and undeniable talent. While the grandioseness of the sets suffer slightly from its original Broadway production, the poignancy of the story still resonates. A compelling, passionate tribute to one boy, while lost in the masses of a dead-end town who fight their own political struggles, discovers his true talent and has the courage to take flight and follow his dreams.
Tickets for Billy Elliott: The Musical through March 25th begin at $28 and are available at the Ohio Theatre Box Office (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and www.ticketmaster.com. To purchase by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. Orders for groups of 20 or more may be placed by calling (614) 719-6900. For more information, visit: www.billyelliotthemusical.com.