Theatre Review: Billy Elliot The Musical (Part 2)

Janet Dickinson (Mrs. Wilkinson), Drew Minard (Billy), Samantha Blaire Cutler (Debbie) and the cast of Billy Elliot the Musical. Photo by Amy Boyle

Editors Note: This isn’t a repost of yesterday’s review. Both Dan and Tommy watched Billy Elliot: The Musical and enjoyed it tremendously that each did a review. Rather than clump them into one post, I felt each deserved their own time to shine in the spotlight. Enjoy a different point of view on the North American touring production.

Well folks, it has been a minute since I’ve cast my opinion on the arts. I knew it was going to take an impressive artist feat to break me out from under this winter rock I’ve been hiding, and the inaugural kick off to the 2013 Vancouver Theatre circuit did just that! Last night, Ali and I took in the premier showing of Billy Elliot: The Musical, playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver from April 2 – 7, 2013. The ten-time Tony Awards® winner, including Best Musical, made its Vancouver debut and needless to say it didn’t disappoint. I’ll go as far as to say it’s now in my personal ranking of all-time best musicals, in a close second sitting right behind Wicked.

I went in to this musical with minimal expectations as I couldn’t recall the film’s plot all that well, having seen it almost a decade ago and refusing to refresh my memory in an effort to allow raw emotion to take root (if I was so compelled to shed a tear). Before the show even began, I bumped into some good friends including fellow cast member Tommy and his Mom, who ended up sitting in the row directly in front of us. It felt great to laugh along with them, and celebrate some of the subtly brilliant homo-centric moments. On a similar note, I want to give a shout out to the Vancouver theatre audience. I am always overwhelmed with emotion when I feel the love and witness the reactions of complete strangers around me, uniting us in a moment of sheer pleasure or heart-breaking sadness. Ah, the joys of live theatre!

Billy Elliot – the Musical is based on the original Universal Pictures/Studio Canal film and adapted for the live stage, with the infusion of some incredible musical numbers. The standout moment for me within the show (and I want to talk about it right out of the gate) was when all the adult male dancers took to the stage in dresses during the “Expressing Yourself” number, alongside Billy, played by Drew Minard (in this performance) and his best friend Michael, played by Jake Kitchun (in this performance) who was struggling with his sexuality, and enjoyed dressing up in his sisters clothes. I instantly fell in love with each and every actor on the stage for willing to take a stand and support a young boy, struggling to find his true identity in a world that widely suppressed homosexuality. Friggin’ fantastic!

There were so many brilliant performances; it’s hard to call out just a few. If you aren’t aware of the story, you can do a quick IMDB or Google search of the film to learn more. The gist; Billy is a young boy growing up in Britain during a time of union unrest, living with his father, brother and grandmother. Each character plays a role in shaping Billy’s life, encouraging him to take up boxing to build strength and character. After a particular boxing session, he is left to clean up after his lesson, and while doing so Mrs. Wilkinson (played brilliantly by Janet Dickinson) enters with her group of young ballerinas, to kick off one of the weekly training sessions. Billy is instantly drawn to the art of dance, and struggles with the decision to take up ballet against his family’s wishes and beliefs to pursue his own passions. If you’re familiar with the film version, you’ll know how the story unfolds and I’m going to cut my description short in fear of giving away too much of the plot.

The award for best performance of the night, in my opinion, has to go to Drew Minard for his performance as Billy Elliot. This young budding actor played the role exquisitely from start-to-finish, with an incredible knack for showing his personal growth as a new-dancer-turned-professional-student over the course of a few hours. There were a few moments where Minard was along on the stage singing and dancing, and it felt as if he filled the entire auditorium with his talent. I’m in awe of this kids talent.

Similarly, my hat goes off to Jake Kitchin for his brilliant portrayal of Billy’s best friend, Michael. There is one incredibly touching scene at the end of the movie when both boys realize just how special (and revolutionary) their relationship is, and I found myself clutching my hypothetical pearls. Love, love, love.

Seriously. I could go on and on, but instead, I’ll insist you go and see this show for yourself! It’s worth it, I promise you. There are still tickets available, including the weekend matinee shows!

For more information on the show, including the North America tour, check out the show’s official website:

Happy Theater Going!