Monday, November 05, 2018

"Billy Elliot" at Signature Theater

I confess these pop culture gaps, like I had somehow never seen the movie "Billy Elliot" even though it sounds basically like my jam, not to brag, but to explain that there are probably shifts and changes that fans of the movie will have specific thoughts about, that I will not.  I did know it was the story of a young boy in the 1980's in Northern England who lives in a coal mining town and while his family is primarily distracted with the miner's strike, he discovers a love for ballet.  
The Signature Theater production is staged, not quite in the round, but with the audience around three full sides which makes good use of a long space for the ensemble to work with.  To my ear, the accents the cast used sounded pretty similar throughout, with no differences between the police and miners, but some subtle differences for the sections in London.  
The cast includes two Billy's, and other rotating children.  It's understandable given how much Billy is on stage.  The few moments where he sits on the stage to listen to an adult seem almost like necessary breaks, but I never spotted a drop of sweat on Owen Tabaka.  There were actors that I had seen in "Carousel" and "The Pajama Game" both of which deal with economic struggle and union rights.  
The show moves at a quick pace, and to keep the constant tension of ballet vs. miners, they are often on stage dancing together even though we are supposed to recognize that the miner's cannot see the ballet dancers.  The show takes a quick look at masculine stereotypes, how Billy doesn't want to be known as a dancer even after had has agreed to audition for the Royal Ballet.  And there is some look at how straight and gay characters may enjoy cross-dressing, and how that doesn't need to align with their sexuality.  
There are some wonderful moments, including a trick where Billy picks up the keys using just his feet, but catches them in his boxing gloved hands that drew gasps from the audience.  Billy has a dream sequence with his older self where goes up on wires that was fun to watch.  And, I confess I am always keen to watch what happens when something goes wrong.  In one sequence a group of adult and kid dancers come out through the closet (oh yeah, there are some closet references here) and they brought with them a dress that fell off a hanger.  They tapped around it, and at one moment, one of the dancers leaned down and tossed it artfully to the side.  As the number ended another dancer detoured over to scoop it up before going backstage.  
Overall it was a good show, and now I have filled in a pop culture gap.  
Toxic masculinity. 
Scene with extra dress
Tricks with keys and hula hoops
Bobby hats