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Entertainment Review: Billy Elliot the Musical at Curve Theatre Leicester

17:10  31 july  2022
17:10  31 july  2022 Source:   leicestermercury.co.uk

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Since the announcement last year that Billy Elliot the Musical would be coming to Curve, audiences have been eagerly awaiting this ambitious new summer production. Based on Stephen Daldry's 2000 film, featuring music from Elton John and Lee Hall and first seen in the West End in 2005, Director Nikolai Foster's version breathes new life into this Made At Curve production.

The musical centres around Billy growing up wanting to dance in his home town in County Durham during the 80s miners strikes. Tensions were high, money was tight, and Billy and his family were suffering the loss of his mum, and learning to live with his maternal grandmother's onset alzheimer's symptoms.

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Opening scenes depict Thatcher's Britain, with miners voting to go on strike - scenes it was hoped wouldn't be repeated, but still resonate today with workers taking to the picket lines once again.

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During the 80s, most of the miners in the area had started 'down the pit' at Easington Colliery as soon as they left school. Billy's story not only challenges ideals in terms of not wanting to follow in his father's footsteps as his brother had, but also because he wanted to be a dancer, something which was unheard of at the time.

The Breakfast setting neatly introduces the audience to Billy's family 'home' and the characters therein. As the strikes get underway, workmates gather at the house before making their way to join the strike action.

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Rachel Izen as Grandma takes to the stage for Grandma's song - a powerful, funny highly emotional performance that really hits the heart strings. The vision created on stage as families stand together in solidarity is really effective and sets the scene for the impending strikes, hardship, clashes with the police and shouts of 'scabs' at workers who cross the picket line.

The audience feels even more involved as the strikers run onto the stage from the aisles during the performance. Joe Caffrey, who previously performed as Billy's brother Tony in the original West End cast, returns as Billy's dad with an outstanding performance marking both the tragedy and comedy of the role in equal measure.

Samuel Newby plays a convincing Billy in the titular role, with his acting, singing and dancing consistently brilliant throughout the performance. Of particular note was 'Expressing Yourself', The Letter scene [when Billy and his dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, excellently played by Sally Ann Triplett, read the letter left by his mother to read when he was older], 'We Were Born To Boogie', 'Dream Ballet' and of course 'Electricity'.

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Sally Ann Triplett as Mrs Wilkinson and Samuel Newby as Billy © Marc Brenner Sally Ann Triplett as Mrs Wilkinson and Samuel Newby as Billy

Jessica Daley, as Billy's mum, appears to Billy in cameo scenes perfectly orchestrated to have maximum impact.Lucas Haywood, playing the role of Michael, matched Newby's energy and playfulness during 'Expressing Yourself' and really brought the role of Michael alive.

Lola Johnstone was equally as brilliant in the role of Mrs Wilkinson's flirty and cheeky daughter Debbie.The set by Michael Taylor gives glimpses of our industrial past - the sight of the miners going back to work into the mine shaft in the final scenes is hauntingly stark.

The standing ovation given on the night reflected the strength of this true masterpiece that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. Billy Elliot the Musical is at Curve until Saturday 20 August 2022. Tickets are priced between £10-£56.

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