For those six people who don’t know, Billy Eliot is a musical about a boy who drops his boxing lessons to join a ballet class, set to the backdrop of Thatcher era miners' strikes. So cue northern accents, songs of solidarity and a bitter/sweet ending.
The singing, always the most important part in any musical, ranged from very good to excellent. The crowd pieces, including the opening song, were stirring and powerful, and the solo-ish pieces were evocative and beautiful. Taryn Mamo Cefai, playing Billy’s mother, had a particularly lovely and well controlled voice, and I was sad not to hear more of her.
Oh, and then there's Billy. Billy, played by Thomas Conroy, was fantastic. He looked very comfortable on stage; his body language was spot on and his singing (along with Edward Conroy, his cross-dressing friend), was just amazing. Both sang clearly and confidently, reaching most every note. I usually find children in productions really irritating, so my highest praise is that I was perfectly charmed on this occasion.
To complement the singing, tribute must also go the choreography. It was all really tastefully done, never going over the top and thus managing to keep consistently effective. The use of the shields/billboard, especially in the opening scene, was just genius.
The acting was by and large very good, with convincing portrayals of anger and frustrations all around. Special mention has to go to Clementine Collett, who did an excellent job of making Mrs. Wilkinson, the dance teacher, both seemingly unsupportive yet really caring at the same time.
Were this a full top end production I would voice some minor grumbles. For example sometimes, like in the solidarity song, the music didn’t quite manage to fill the room or lacked a little punch, but this is probably due to lack of full orchestra and/or mikes for every singer than anything else.
Considering that this was done in under a week, by youth actors, it was frankly amazing. Everyone involved should be immensely proud. I look forward to next year's Stagecoach offering already.