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Saturday, July 2, 2011

'Billy Elliot' Soars on Stage: San Francisco

It’s not often that a musical production takes the audience’s breath away with as much gusto as the actors who are performing the songs and pirouettes. But “Billy Elliot” manages to soar beyond any flying leap Rudolph Nureyev ever performed and manages to take not only our breath away but our hearts.

“Billy Elliot” is the poignant story of 11 year old Billy and his family during the turbulent coal mining strike in the 1980s. Set against the fictional British coal mining town of Everington, the story is able to contrast the hard-hitting and historically accurate political drama during Margaret Thatcher’s era with the beauty and grace of ballet. Billy’s widowed father, Jackie, (Rich Herbert) struggles to stay true to his blue collar union stronghold, his machismo beliefs and his oldest son’s single-mindedness. He encourages Billy to learn boxing to toughen him up.

But by chance Billy stumbles upon a ballet class that has been moved to the same room that his boxing lessons are held. His fascination takes the better of him and soon he excels beyond any of the girl dancers in the class. His teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, takes him under her wing and encourages his talent as a way to escape the poverty and dead-end path for him in Everington.

When an emotional Billy tries to express his dream of auditioning for the Royal Ballet to his family, they ridicule and condone his actions. But when his father unintentionally catches a glimpse of Billy dancing his talent is unmistakable. Going against his older son Tony, he attempts to cross the picket line to help pay for Billy’s lessons. Tony tries to block his father from crossing the picket line but the town intervenes and unifies. Ultimately the town ends up raising enough money to pay for his audition.

The role of Billy Elliot is split between several actors in the San Francisco p roduction. J.P. Viernes played the role at our showing and was flawless. Not only was his accent “spot on”, but his dancing, singing and acting was “Standing O” worthy. Faith Prince simply sparkles as Mrs. Wilkinson. Prince is a seasoned Tony-winning Broadway veteran who anchors one end of the show. Her performance is balanced by Rich Herbert as Billy’s father and Jeff Kready as Tony. The delightful Patti Perkins, as Billy’s grandmother, adds lightness to the heavy political story. The icing on the cake is the performance by Griffin Birney who plays Billy’s flamboyant friend, Michael.

Whether you have guests visiting this summer or are looking for options for your “staycation”, you must add “Billy Elliot” to your summer bucket list.
'Billy Elliot'

Book and lyrics by Lee Hall, music by Elton John, directed by Stephen Daldry
Through: Sept. 17
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco
Running time: almost three hours, one intermission
Tickets: $35-$99 (subject to change), 888-746-1799, http://shnsf.com/

1 comment:

  1. I know my society has mostly collapsed and that the family business won't sustain an extra cohort.


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