Adelaide Festival Theatre
Until 26 Jan 2020

Review by Brian Godfrey

The 2000 film “Billy Elliot” had heart, humour and a beautiful feeling of inspiration. The original stage musical version had all of these factors – only doubled in impact. This latest 10th anniversary production has more than doubled that again. While auditioning for the Royal Ballet, young Billy is asked why he wants to be a dancer. His answer is that it electrifies him – and that is exactly how it feels to be in the audience all the way through this magnificent production.

Set during the English Miner’s Strike of 1984/85 “Billy Elliot” is a story of hardship, triumph, solidarity and daring to dream and striving to fulfil that dream. Lee Hall's book and lyrics, coupled with music by Elton John, tell the story with warmth, a fair degree of humour and some heartfelt drama.

Lisa Sontag gives a very well defined 'realness' to her role as dance teacher, Mrs Wilkinson; as do Justin Smith and Drew Livingston as Billy's father and big brother respectively. All three move between the various emotions required of them effortlessly. Livingston's scenes of anger, in particular, are exemplary with his emotions boiling but never overflowing into melodramatic overacting. Vivien Davies (Billy’s Grandma), the ever great Robert Grubb (George) and Dean Vince (Mr Braithwaite) add some wonderful human comedy. Special mention must be given to Aaron Smyth for his absolutely stunning balletic ability as the Older Billy.

Now let’s talk about those without whom this show would simply not work: the children. Chanel Charles was suitably sassy and precocious without going over the top. Runaway scene stealer of the night had to be young Hamish Monger as Michael, the boy who makes cross dressing fashionable. His ability to handle comedy is remarkable for someone his age – adult comedians be afraid, be very afraid!

“Billy Elliot The Musical”, of course, requires a fantastic Billy. One word for the opening night Billy, 12 year old Wade Neilson: WOW! Hugh Jackman could easily retire knowing that Australian musical theatre would be very safe in the hands of this young triple threater. Neilson nails the part on every level always leaving his audience wanting more – as any entertainer should.

Every aspect of this production sizzles and sparks with the electricity that Billy obviously feels. It must also be mentioned that the Geordie accent from all cast, young and not so young, is spot on.

Make your dream come true and see this exhilarating production.