note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
The spring musical at Company Theatre is "Billy Elliot" which is Ten time Tony Award winning musical including Best Musical of the Year and ran for 1,312 performances. It is spectacular musical with the heart, humor and passion to be named Time Magazine's "Best Musical of the Decade!" This musical version is based on the international film hit and features a score by Elton John. "Billy Elliot, the Musical" is the inspirational story of a young boy's struggles against the odds to make his dream come true. Set in a northern English mining town, against the background of the 1984 miners strike, audiences will follow Billy's journey as he stumbles out of a boxing ring into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and his community and changes his life forever. The miners strike casts a pall over the village but when local dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkerson discovers Billy's talent, she brings beauty into a dark and ominous situation. Directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman pick the best performers to fill these roles and create an epic masterpiece that audiences can thoroughly savor and enjoy. A surprising tap dance that makes the audience rise to its feet is the closing reward this phenomenal cast delivers to one and all. Bravo!
Zoe and Jordie block the show excellently while Sally Ashton Forrest supplies some breathtaking dance numbers for this show. Musical director Michael Joseph brings out the best in the vocals of this hard working cast as well as in his splendid thirteen piece orchestra. 12 year old Jamie Mann is phenomenal as Billy. He is a triple threat performer at a very young age and is definitely bound for stardom. Jamie not only tugs at your heartstrings as Billy but also delivers comic moments along the way, too. His dancing is electrifying and his strong singing voice is astounding, too. Jamie's numbers include "Electricity" which sends chills down your spine as it stops the show with power and punch when Billy tells the powers that be what dancing means to him. Another one of his numbers is "Solidarity" when he continues to take dancing lessons without the knowledge of his family. The dancing students as well as the cops and strikers sing it which makes a stirring anthem in this epic show. One of the most outstanding numbers is the dream dance to Swan Lake, Pas de Deux between Billy and the grown up Billy played by Ben Keufler. This is a breathtaking moment where all of Billy's dreams are finally realized. He flies through the air during this number as Ben dances below him.Jamie's interactions with one and all are astounding. Bravo!
One of the funniest numbers in the show is "Expressing Yourself" when Billy's friend, Michael, excellently played by extremely talented Oliver Trejo. Michael tells Billy to wear a dress and just relax. Michael is flamboyant and this vaudeville type number is magnificent as both Jamie and Oliver do a fabulous show stopping tap dance. Their relationship becomes heartwarming when Michael wishes Billy well in his future endeavors which leaves the audience in tears. Oliver is only 12 and is mature beyond his years in this role. I last reviewed him as Gavroche in "Les Miserables" two years ago. Noreen McDonald shines as Mrs. Wilkerson, the dance teacher who eventually recognizes Billy's talent as a dancer. She is gutsy and commands every scene that she is in. She encourages him to follow his dreams. Her first number is "Shine" is reminiscent of Miss Hannigan chastising the orphans in "Annie" as she is chastising her dancing girls with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Another marvelous number is "Born to Boogie" where Billy learns an impressive dance number to audition for the dance school. Noreen delivers a well nuanced performance as this hard as nails teacher who is really a marshmallow underneath. She is fabulous in this role. The little boy who steals many a scene is played by Oliver Massey who is only 6 years old.
Chris Hagberg is wonderful as the stoic father who finally shows his deep emotions as he sings "Deep into the Ground" when he conveys his devastation at the loss of his wife. Chris also sings "He Could Be a Star" with Billy's brother, Tony. They argue about Billy's future. Chris gives a strong portrayal as this hard as nails man who realizes he must let his son follow his dreams. Bryan Rowell does a marvelous job as Tony, running the gamut of emotions from bitter to sympathetic about Billy's plight. He displays his voice in "He Could Go and He Could Shine" number. Bryan is terrific as this angry young man. Tony redeems himself when he becomes happy that Billy will finally fulfill his true love to dance. A song that leaves the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter is "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher" performed by the company at the start of the second act. It is reminiscent of "Hooverville Song" from "Annie." Another impressive poignant song is Mother's Letter which is performed in both acts and is an emotion packed moment sung perfectly by Taylor Walker as the dead mother and Jamie. The both of them have the audience in the palm of their hands. Her voice is fabulous and astounds the audience, garnering a multitude of tears from them. One of the funniest characters is Billy's grandmother. Karen Wadlund shines as the Grandmother and her show stopping song is a moment of hilarity. "Grandma's Song" is bawdy and brilliantly performed by her as she complains about her abusive husband who was always drunk. The grandmother continually gives everyone the middle finger which is a hoot. Other comic performers include Mark Estano as George, the boxing teacher,4th grade student Morgan Benard as Debbie Wilkerson who asks Billy if he wants to see her fanny and Ryan Barrow as the dance school piano player. He does a terrific job on the boogie dance with Jamie and Noreen. Kudos also to the singing and dancing chorus of this show. Company Theatre always does a fantastic job with their epic musicals and "Billy Elliot" is one more feather in their cap. The audience jumped to their feet at the curtain call on a job extremely well done. Run do not walk to the box office before this show is sold out. It is definitely not a show to be missed. Tell them Tony sent you.