Billy Elliot the Musical
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West End Poster
|Basis||2000 Film Billy Elliot|
|Productions||2005 West End
2010 US National Tour
2010 2nd National Tour
|Awards||Olivier Award for Best New Musical
Tony Award for Best Musical
Billy Elliot the Musical is a musical based on the 2000 film Billy Elliot. The music is by Elton John, and book and lyrics are by Lee Hall, who wrote the film's screenplay. The plot revolves around motherless Billy, who trades boxing gloves for ballet shoes. The story of his personal struggle and fulfillment are balanced against a counter-story of family and community strife caused by the UK miners' strike (1984–1985) in County Durham, in North Eastern England. Hall's screenplay was inspired in part by A. J. Cronin's 1935 novel about a miners' strike, The Stars Look Down, to which the musical's opening song pays homage.
The musical premiered in London's West End in 2005 and was nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards, winning four including Best New Musical. The production is still running strongly, and its success led to productions in Australia, on Broadway and elsewhere. In New York, it won ten Tony Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards, including, in each case, best musical. It has also won numerous awards in Australia including a record-tying seven Helpmann Awards.
- 1 Productions
- 2 Synopsis
- 3 Musical numbers
- 4 Instrumentation
- 5 Characters and original casts
- 6 Awards and nominations
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Original London production
The musical was planned to premiere at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. This was abandoned due to the financial problems of the Tyne Theatre's operator and the production's growing budget.
The musical premiered in the West End at the Victoria Palace Theatre, opening in previews on 31 March 2005 and officially on 11 May 2005; it is still running today, with the booking date recently being extended to 21 December 2013. It reportedly cost £5.5 million to produce (the original film version cost $5 million). The producers were Working Title Films, Old Vic Productions Plc and David Furnish. It was directed by Stephen Daldry and choreographed by Peter Darling, as was the original film. Liam Mower, James Lomas and George Maguire were the original actors who alternated in the title role, and the supporting cast included Haydn Gwynne as Mrs. Wilkinson and Tim Healy as Billy's father. The sets were designed by Ian MacNeil, and the costumes were by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting was by Rick Fisher, and sound by Paul Arditti. The original cast album was released on 10 January 2006.
Billy Elliot the Musical won four Laurence Olivier Awards: Best New Musical, Best Actor (awarded jointly to James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower, the boys who played Billy), Best Sound design and Best Choreographer. It also won the Evening Standard Award as well as the Critcs Circle Award and the Theatregoers Choice Award, all for Best Musical. On 12 May 2006, the three original Billys appeared together in a performance of the musical to celebrate its first anniversary. The three rotated the role during the performance and were joined at the end by Elton John.
In 2013, the show won an additional Olivier Award, the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award (voted for by theatre goers) after many years of being finalists for the award.
On 8 April 2013, it was announced that Margaret Thatcher had died at the age of 87 of a stroke and there was uncertainty whether the song 'Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher' would be included in the performance that day due to the lyrics including: "We all celebrate today 'cause it's one day closer to your death". Director Stephen Daldry said that after "much discussion", the audience were given the choice to decide whether the song should be performed and, with only 3 audience members voting against it, the performance went ahead as normal.
Billy Youth Theatre
Billy Youth Theatre is a countrywide scheme as part of which participating schools and youth groups will be given the opportunity to stage their own production of this internationally award-winning show. Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, together with Martin Koch (Musical Supervision and Orchestrations), have adapted their original script and orchestrations to produce a shortened version of the show exclusively for groups staging local productions as part of Billy Youth Theatre.
Original Australian production
The musical opened at Sydney's Capitol Theatre on 13 November 2007, directed by Daldry in association with Julian Webber, and choreographed by Darling. Rhys Kosakowski, Lochlan Denholm, Rarmian Newton, and Nick Twiney alternated in the title role. The production earned good notices, and in January 2008 it won Best Musical at the 2008 Sydney Theatre Awards. The show also won seven Helpmann Awards, including the awards for Best Musical, Best Direction, Best Choreography, Best Actress (Genevieve Lemon as Mrs. Wilkinson) and Best Actor, awarded jointly to the four boys who played Billy Elliot. The production concluded in Sydney on 9 November 2008 with all eight Sydney Billys in the finale.
Original Broadway production
The Broadway production opened at the Imperial Theatre on 1 October 2008 in previews and officially on 13 November 2008. The London production's creative team directed and designed the Broadway production. The title role was rotated among three young actors, David Álvarez, Kiril Kulish and Trent Kowalik, the last of whom had played the role in London. The supporting cast included Haydn Gwynne, reprising her role of Mrs. Wilkinson from the London production, and Gregory Jbara as Billy's father.
The production received rave reviews: Time called it a "triumph"; critic Liz Smith termed it "breathtakingly brilliant" and "absolutely, unequivocally awesome"; the Daily News said it was "so exhilarating that at times you feel like leaping"; the New York Post said it was "almost like being in love" and termed it "amusing, perfect and passionate" and "the best show you will ever see"; and the Los Angeles Times called it a "global theatrical phenomenon". It has also been very financially successful, with $20 million taken in advance ticket sales. The production received fifteen Tony Award nominations, tying with The Producers for the most nominations ever received by a Broadway show, and winning ten. The original three boys in the lead role jointly won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. The production sold strongly and recouped its original investment of $18 million in 14 months. The Broadway production closed on 8 January 2012 following 40 previews and 1,312 regular performances.
The musical opened in Chicago on 18 March 2010 in previews, officially on 11 April, at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre for an extended run. This is the start of the North American multi-city tour. According to producer Eric Fellner, however, the musical "will be here until such time as Chicago says 'go away'. ... We can only do one production at once," and other North American cities will have to wait until the Chicago production runs its course. Emily Skinner plays Mrs. Wilkinson, and the cast featured Tommy Batchelor, Giuseppe Bausilio, Cesar Corrales and John Peter (J.P.) Viernes alternating as Billy. The production closed early on 28 November 2010 and transferred to Toronto. The show ran for 37 weeks and 288 performances.
The production had been slated to run through July 2010 but was extended to the middle of January 2011, by popular demand. But by September, ticket sales were growing bleak. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Weekday attendance had been especially poor in recent weeks, despite heavily discounted tickets. Audience members at the Oriental Theatre in the Loop had reported an almost-empty balcony at some shows, and weekday attendance had been as low as 900 or so people. December sales are typically strong, so the decision to close then indicated that things were not expected to pick up." The show closed "early" in November 2010.
The show received mostly glowing reviews, Toronto Times exclaiming "ALL HAIL BILLY AND LONG MAY HE REIGN." The most critical review was one published in the National Post: "The signal achievement of Billy Elliot The Musical is to be even phonier than the movie it’s based on."
The show was extended, due to packed audiences and seemingly undying interest, for an additional 3 months.
Second National Tour (2010-2013)
A second tour opened at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, North Carolina on 30 October 2010. Although this is the first production of the musical to tour the United States and Canada in a "touring" manner, this is still considered to be the Second National Tour. Cast members included Faith Prince J.P. Viernes, and Joel Blum.
The Second National Tour went on hiatus in August 2011. It re-opened in November of the same year under a new production company, and with previous cast members from the second national tour as well as the Toronto cast. Notable cast replacement included Ben Cook as Billy.
While the Second National Tour received much praise from audiences and critics, BroadwayWorld.com gave the show a rare mixed review, calling Stephen Daldry's direction "muddy and over-complicated," Elton John's music "dull," and Ian MacNeil's set "hideous, over-designed, and unnecessarily complex." 
The musical opened in Seoul on 10 August 2010 in previews, officially on 14 August, at the LG Arts Center, becoming the first non-English speaking Billy Elliot's production, starring Billys Jin-Ho Jung, Ji-Myeong Lee, Sunu Lim, Se-Yong Kim and Junhyung Kim.
In County Durham, the 1984-85 coal miners' strike is just beginning ("The Stars Look Down"). Motherless eleven-year-old Billy is required to stay behind after his boxing class and finds his way into a ballet class run by Mrs. Wilkinson. He is the only boy, but becomes attracted to the grace of the dance ("Shine"). The secret is at first easily kept, as the only person home at the time is his grandmother. She reveals her abusive relationship with her dead husband and that she too loved to dance, which made everything all right ("Grandma's Song").
While his brother, father, and neighbours are on strike and clash with riot police, Billy continues to take dance lessons, keeping it a secret from his family ("Solidarity"), a number which intersperses the violent reality of the strike with the peaceful practise of ballet.
Eventually, Mr. Elliot discovers Billy in the ballet class and forbids him from attending the lessons. Mrs. Wilkinson, who recognizes Billy's talent, privately suggests that he should audition for the Royal Ballet School in London. To prepare for the audition, she offers free private lessons. Billy is not sure what he wants to do so he visits his best friend Michael for advice. He finds Michael wearing a dress. He persuades Billy to have fun with him by dressing up in woman's clothing and disdaining the restrictive inhibitions of their working class community ("Expressing Yourself").
Billy arrives for his first private ballet lesson bringing with him things to inspire a special dance for the audition ("Dear Billy (Mum's Letter)"). He begins learning from and bonding with Mrs. Wilkinson while he develops an impressive routine for his audition ("Born to Boogie"). Mrs. Wilkinson's daughter Debbie tries to discourage Billy because she has a crush on him. Meanwhile, Billy's father and brother Tony are engaged in daily battles with riot police that often turn bloody. They struggle to support the family with very little in strike and union pay, a difficult task that goes on for nearly a year.
When the day of the Royal Ballet School audition comes, police are coming through the village and Tony has been injured by the police. Because Billy had not come to the miner's hall to get picked up by Mrs. Wilkinson for the audition, she goes to the Elliot home. There, Billy's family and some members of the community have gathered. She is forced to reveal that she has been teaching Billy ballet in preparation for this very day. This news upsets Billy’s father and Tony, who gets in an argument with Mrs. Wilkinson. Tony tries to force Billy to dance on the table in front of everyone. The police approach and, as everyone escapes, Billy calls out to his father saying that his mother would have let him dance, but his father refuses to accept that, saying that, "Your Mam's dead!". Billy goes into a rage ("Angry Dance"), and for nearly a year, stays away from anything related to ballet.
Six months later at the miner's annual Christmas show, the children put on a show disparaging Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who is seen as the antagonist by the coal miners ("Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher"). Billy's father gets drunk and sings an old folk song that elicits memories of his deceased wife and the usually stoic man leaves in tears ("Deep Into the Ground"). Left alone with Billy in the Community Centre, Michael reveals he has feelings for him, but Billy explains that the fact that he likes ballet does not mean that he is gay. Michael gives him a kiss on the cheek. Michael tries to get Billy to show him some dancing, but Billy is sad and just tells him to leave.
Michael departs, but leaves a music player running. Billy feels like dancing for the first time since the day of the aborted audition and dances while dreaming of being a grown-up dancer ("Swan Lake"). Unknown to Billy, his father arrives and watches him dance. Overcome with emotion, his father goes to Mrs. Wilkinson’s house to discuss Billy’s prospects as a dancer. She confirms Billy's talent, but is not sure whether or not he would get into the Royal Ballet School. Mrs. Wilkinson offers to help pay for the trip to London for the audition, but Mr. Elliot refuses. He leaves questioning his working-class pride and the future mining has for his boys.
Mr. Elliot decides the only way to help Billy is to return to work. When Tony sees his father cross the picket line, he becomes infuriated and the two argue over what is more important: unity of the miners or helping Billy achieve his dream ("He Could Be A Star"). The argument eventually comes to blows and Billy is hit accidentally. One of the miners chastises them for fighting and says that the important thing is looking after the child. One by one, the miners give money to help pay for the trip to the audition, but Billy still does not have enough for the bus fare to London. A strike-breaker arrives and offers him hundreds of pounds. An enraged Tony attempts to shun his donation, but no one else speaks up in his support. Now drained of hope, Tony dismally ponders whether there's a point for anything anymore, and runs off.
Billy and his father arrive at the Royal Ballet School for the audition. While Mr. Elliot waits outside, an upper-crust Londoner highlights the contrast between the Elliots and the families of the other applicants. Mr. Elliot meets a dancer with a thick Northern accent. The dancer confesses that his father does not support his ballet career. He sharply advises Mr. Elliot to "get behind" his boy. Billy nervously finishes the audition with a sinking feeling that he did not do well. As he packs his gear, he lets that emotion overwhelm him and he punches another dancer who was trying to comfort him. The audition committee reminds Billy of the strict standards of the school. They have received an enthusiastic letter from Mrs. Wilkinson explaining Billy's background and situation, and they ask him to describe what it feels like when he dances. Billy responds with a heartfelt declaration of his passion ("Electricity").
Back in Durham, the Elliots resume life, but times are tough and the miners are running a soup kitchen to ensure everyone is fed. Eventually, Billy receives a letter from the school and, overwhelmed and fearful, knowing that it heralds the end of the life he has known, informs his family that he wasn't accepted. Tony retrieves the letter from the waste bin and discovers that his brother was accepted. At the same time, the miners' union has caved in; they lost the strike. Billy visits Mrs. Wilkinson at the dance class to thank her for everything she did to help him. Debbie is sad that Billy will be leaving.
Billy packs his things for the trip to the school and says goodbye to the soon to be unemployed miners who are returning unhappily to work ("Once We Were Kings"). Billy says goodbye to his dead mother, who often visits him in his imagination ("Dear Billy (Billy's Reply)"). Michael arrives to say goodbye and Billy gives him a kiss on the cheek. Billy takes his suitcase and walks out to his future alone.
The entire cast comes out on stage and calls Billy back to celebrate the bright future ahead of him ("Finale").
The instrumentation for Billy Elliot requires a large orchestra. The original Broadway production had seventeen musicians. The Broadway orchestra required two keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, guitar, four woodwind players, three trumpets, two horns, and two trombones. Almost all players double on two or more instruments. The keyboards double on synthesizer, guitar on variax, and bass with fretless bass. The trumpets double on cornet and flugelhorn while the second trumpet part also doubles on E-flat cornet. The trombones double on euphonium. The horns also double on tenor horn. The woodwind doublings vary depending the venue. In the original West End production there was a single woodwind player that doubled on piccolo, flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon. The Broadway production had four woodwind players. The first doubled on piccolo, flute, clarinet, and alto sax. The second on flute, clarinet, and alto sax. The third on clarinet and soprano and tenor sax. The fourth on clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor sax. The Chicago production had the same doublings from Broadway but omitted the fourth woodwind part. The tour version has two woodwind players. The first doubles on flute and soprano and tenor sax. The second on clarinet and alto sax.
Characters and original casts
The principal original cast of the West End, Broadway and Australian productions:
|Character||Original London Cast||Original Broadway Cast||Original Australian Cast|
|Billy Elliot||Liam Mower
|Sandra Wilkinson||Haydn Gwynne||Genevieve Lemon|
|Jackie Elliot||Tim Healy||Gregory Jbara||Richard Piper|
|Tony Elliot||Joe Caffrey||Santino Fontana||Justin Smith|
|Grandma||Ann Emery||Carole Shelley||Lola Nixon|
|Mr. Braithwaite||Steve Elias||Thommie Retter||John Xintavelonis|
|George||Trevor Fox||Joel Hatch||Linal Haft|
|Jenny Elliot||Stephanie Putson||Leah Hocking||Samantha Morley|
|Billy Elliot (age 25)||Issac James||Stephen Hanna||Joshua Horner|
|Michael Caffrey||Ryan Longbottom
Ashley Luke Lloyd
|Debbie Wilkinson||Lucy Stephenson
Brooke Havana Bailey
|Erin Whyland||Shannon Joliff
- Notable West End replacements
- Billy Elliot – Leon Cooke, Travis Yates, Matthew Koon, Colin Bates, Dean McCarthy, Layton Williams, Corey Snide, Oliver Taylor, Joshua Fedrick, Trent Kowalik, Fox Jackson-Keen, Tom Holland, Ryan Collinson 
- Michael Caffrey – Tom Holland, Jake Pratt
- Debbie Wilkinson – Amy Duggan, Leyci Wightman, Megan Jossa
- Mrs Wilkinson – Sally Dexter, Jackie Clune, Joanna Riding, Genevieve Lemon
- Dad – James Gaddas, Philip Whitchurch, Joe Caffrey, Daniel Coll (alternate), Martin Marquez
- Tony – Craig Gallivan, Tom Lorcan, Killian Donnelly
- Notable Broadway replacements
- Notable Australian replacements
Awards and nominations
The West End production was nominated for nine 2006 Laurence Olivier Awards and won four, including Best New Musical. At age thirteen, Liam Mower was the youngest actor to win the award, and the actors playing Billy were the first to win the award in a shared capacity. Lomas, Maguire, and Mower also jointly received the Theatre Goers' Choice Award 2005 for The Most Promising Newcomer. The production also won The Evening Standard Award 2005, among others. The Sydney production was nominated for eleven 2008 Helpmann Awards and won seven, including Best Musical. The Melbourne production was nominated for eleven 2008 Green Room Awards and won six, including Best Production Music Theatre. The Broadway production received 15 Tony Award nominations in 2009, tied with The Producers for the most nominations ever received by a single show. It won ten Tony Awards, including the Best Musical. The lead actor award was shared by the three boys who opened in the title role, marking the first time in Tony history the award has been shared by three actors. The production was also nominated for ten Drama Desk Awards, winning all ten, including Outstanding Musical. It garnered ten 2008-09 Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations, winning seven, including Outstanding New Broadway Musical, as well as receiving an honorary Special Achievement Award for its three Billys. And the six juvenile principals were recognized with an honorary Young Artist Award as Outstanding Broadway Musial Ensemble.
Original London production
|2006||Laurence Olivier Awards||Best New Musical||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower||Won|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Haydn Gwynne||Nominated|
|Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Tim Healy||Nominated|
|Best Director||Stephen Daldry||Nominated|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Peter Darling||Won|
|Best Set Design||Ian McNeil||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Rick Fisher||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design||Paul Arditti||Won|
|2013||Audience Award for Most Popular Show||Won|
Original Broadway production
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