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Theatre Review (LA): Billy Elliot The Musical by Lee Hall and Elton John at the Pantages

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Having watched the documentary on how they chose the boys to play Billy Elliot, I was really looking forward to seeing the show when it came to the Pantages. Now, having seen the show, it is obvious to me that Billy really is the show. The boy who plays Billy must be a triple threat: He must act (with an accent), sing, and be able to do various forms of dance – modern, ballet, tap, and even some hip hop (although hip hop was not in at the time of the piece, it is used to show that all kinds of dance resided in Billy).

Ty Forhan (Billy), Jillian Rees-Brown (Grandma) and the cast of “Billy Elliot the Musical.”
Photo by Kyle Froman

On opening night in Los Angeles, Ty Forhan, a 13-year-old from Ontario, Canada, played Billy. Ty had played the role in Toronto and is a veteran of several other musicals – Oliver, Seussical The Musical, Wizard of Oz, and Musical Mayhem Revue. Despite this background, this boy had to undergo months if not years of training to give the kind of brilliant performance he gave on opening night. He earned several standing ovations, even in the middle of the show.

Billy Elliot The Musical is based on the A. J. Cronin novel The Stars Look Down, which was made into a movie in 1939. A new film version came out in 2000 and went on to win many awards. It was then made into a musical using the same director (Stephen Daldry) and same choreographer (Peter Darling), with book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Sir Elton John. It is hard to single out who is the most responsible for the show but I must hand it to the choreographer who really filled out Sir Elton’s often flat score with some remarkable dancing. Some of the dancing, when it involves the miners, can get rather foolish, but on the whole Darling did a terrific job.

Billy got some wonderful help from several other cast members, notably Leah Hocking as Mrs. Wilkinson, his dance teacher; Rich Hebert as his father; Cullen R. Titmas as his snarling brother; Joel Blum, quite a dancer, as George; and especially Cameron Clifford as Michael, Billy’s friend who likes women’s clothes. In short this is a must-see show, full of heart, bound to bring a tear to you eyes, and full of awesome dancing. The scene where Billy dances with his adult self, played by Maximilien A. Baud, is a great one (despite the fact that the hook for flying was very evident even halfway back where I was sitting).

Billy Elliot The Musical will play at the Pantages until May 13.

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