This show, however, is ultimately about the kids. There’s nothing cute about Billy and his young colleagues: from the gaggle of tutus that swarm the stage in ‘Shine’, to Michael’s joyous dance of the dresses, to Billy’s astonishing Angry Dance, the young performers don’t just steal the show, they own it. Indeed, apart from the tight, exuberant dance numbers, the younger actors carry a huge amount of the emotional punch of the story. Like when Debbie (Gabrielle Daggar) tells Billy, ‘you’re shit’. It cuts straight through the proverbial.
On opening night Jamie Rogers appeared as Billy. (He alternates with Omar Abiad, River Mardesic and Wade Neilsen). Rogers is extraordinary, on stage almost constantly for three hours, transforming from limp boxer into electrifying dancer. Meanwhile, James Sonnemann, as Billy’s best mate Michael, brings a new depth and dazzle to the hard yards of growing up.
Billy Elliot is slick and fast-moving with earworm tunes (Elton John) and a comfortingly predictable plot, but there’s a grubby rawness to its aesthetic, and a mad inventiveness to the dance routines (choreographer Peter Darling) which take it beyond being just another big budget musical. Ten years on, Billy Elliot still stands out from the crowd. Indeed, as the protesters assemble a massive, fading sign reading ‘National Coal Board’ before facing the police riot squad, the story takes on a new poignancy. Growing up is hard, change is harder, and all art is political.
Billy Elliot runs until November 10.