BILLY ELLIOT – THE MUSICAL – DUBLIN (IRELAND) – 2016

Review by Michael Birchall – UK.

For many years I had been wanting to go to London to see the musical version of one of the best social-realism movies ever made – Billy Elliot. The original movie came out in 2000 and was an instant global success for director Stephen Daldry and main child star Jamie Bell. Set amongst the coal mines of 1980’s north-eastern England, the film told the story of how one boy sought to become a ballet dancer  – with all his friends and family struggling to come to terms with his choice of career until further into the film, when his Dad realises that Billy does indeed have talent.

I was therefore delighted to find out that Billy Elliot – The Musical, with it’s full cast and music by Elton John, would be on in Dublin over the summer, when I would be in the city visiting family. So I persuaded my family to book the tickets and we duly went to see the performance on a glorious Friday evening at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre which is in the Grand Canal Docks area of Dublin. I have to report that this theatre is undoubtably one of the best in the world – you got a clear view of the stage no matter where you were sitting. It was, like most of the performances that happened in this Dublin run, packed to capacity and I learned afterwards that every single performance had ended with standing ovations and encores – and well deserved too in my opinion!

In general what happens on the stage during the performance more or less follows what happens in the movie, with the wonderful addition of music and dance routines, some of which are extremely emotional indeed. There are also many funny scenes included as well, I particularly liked the one where Billy meets his best friend and they try on ballet costumes in secret! The music and dance routines make the production really magical and special, if you do get to see this show somewhere, be prepared for the best!

For this tour, the company consists of four boys playing the part of Billy in rotation (due to employment laws in relation to using child actors and the amount of time each boy can legally spend working each day). There are also several different rotating actors for most of the other roles too. The set and backdrops are all based on the original London show – built slightly smaller to fit in these smaller stages that the Tour is currently using. The set is fully automated and this reduces the length of time in between acts – as the scenery changes constantly throughout the three hour show.

I can highly recommend this show! It is on in the following locations over the coming months: Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Southampton and Birmingham. After that it is planned to bring the show on a possible pan-European Tour as well as to other locations in the rest of the world. It makes for a fun day or evening out – and is suitable for all ages – even your parents will enjoy it! There are gifts and clothing available online and at the shows alongside books and other items. See: billyelliotthemusical.com for full details!