Billy Elliot – Victoria Palace Theatre

I am not a huge fan of the original film, and I had avoided seeing the musical adaptation ever since it opened in 2005. But on a bank holiday Monday, what I actually wanted to see with family and friends wasn't available at the tkts booth in Leicester Square and this, to my surprise, was.

Somewhat foolishly, given it won four out of the nine Oliver Awards it was nominated for when it opened, I didn't expect to be that impressed… Oops.

I'm not going to name names for the acting talent, not least as child labour laws mean that the part of Billy is rotated between three boys (all three of the original cast won the 'best actor' award in that year's Olivier Awards), similarly with the other child roles. A 'the part of… will be played tonight by…' notice by the theatre box office meant we might also have had understudies for the roles of his (dead) mother and a couple of others. No matter, 'Billy' made a couple of tiny mistakes while dancing but was otherwise spot on, as were the others.

If you're considering taking young children, you need to know that there's lots of rude words used, many of them by the child actors. It also features perhaps the only gay kiss to get the audience going 'ahhhh' at how sweet it is.

In other news, the choreography is superb (Peter Darling), the lyrics are excellent (Lee Hall, the author of the original screenplay) and the book (Lee Hall again) and staging (directed by the film's director, Stephen Daldry) are very good.. what's the problem? Well, there isn't one, but the huge surprise for me was the music.

I would never have expected something composed by Elton John to have fewer memorable tunes than a Stephen Sondheim musical (I say this as a huge Sondheim fan, but his average is about one per show!) Elton John has written more great tunes than I can name… just not here. I defy anyone to leave the theatre humming any of them. The Amazon reviews for the original cast album talk about it growing on you, which I have doubts about, but ultimately it doesn't matter: the rest of the package is so good.

4/5

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