Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Billy Elliot

So, if you have been following either this blog or my facebook, you would know that I have been really wanting to see Billy Elliot while I was here in London. Well, I can cross that one off of my list! We saw it tonight and it was really quite excellent.

First of all, I went on to a site called Get Into London Theatre, which sells discounted tickets to certain shows in the beginning of the year to help with generally lagging ticket sales since nobody has any money to spend on theatre after Christmas.  So I got tickets in the Grand Circle for 25 pounds. Reduced from like 40, so that's pretty prime.

Let me just explain about London theatres. There is no continuity in what they call their sections of the theatre, save for the stalls (we call it orchestra in the states). Other than that, there are a variety of names for what we call the front and rear mezzanine (or sometimes the balcony). For example, at Phantom, the progression is stalls, dress circle, grand circle then upper circle/balcony. Others have royal circle and some don't have as many levels as Her Majesty's. So for simplicity's sake, we would have been on the third level. We got upgraded to the stalls, which was nice but annoying at the same time. See, stalls are pretty flat, where the upper levels tend to be more stadium seating style as they are up higher and such. So as a person that is vertically challenged, when someone sits in front of me it is a bit hard to see. But it was good nonetheless.

Comments on the show

It was really good. Not Phantom or Wicked caliber, I must confess, but still quite good. Some of the songs are meaningful, some funny, and some superfluous. What Billy Elliot relies on is the dancing. Which was awesome. The boy who was playing Billy (they rotate because of labour laws) wasn't the most excellent singer, but he was an amazing tap dancer and an excellent ballet dancer. There were some epic scenes, like one where he danced to Swan Lake juxtaposed with what I guess was future older Billy. He flew on a wire. It was prime. There is also a cute scene with a song called "Expressing  Yourself" where Billy's gay friend Michael gets him to try on dresses and stuff because he wants to show there is nothing wrong with being who you are. Much hilarity and impressive tap dancing ensued. The show is filled to the brim with wit and humour, but also poignancy and emotion as well. So. Good.

I do have to say, while I enjoy lively live theatre, the show ran a bit long for me, running at about 2 hours and 50 minutes because of a few semi-drawn out scenes and a very lengthy curtain call. Another departure from musical theatre is the absence of an overture, which was a bit surprising, plus a non traditional curtain call. It was a fun but ultimately lengthy tap dance bow sort of thing, but then they did traditional bows too. I felt it was a bit overkill after sitting through a long show. Don't get me wrong, it was excellent fun, but I think they should have stuck with one or the other.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and a wonderful show, though I think I would have understood it a bit better if I understood the politics of the Margaret Thatcher era with the coal miners strikes and such, the backdrop of the show. But going in purposely not knowing the songs or anything was a good idea, especially considering when I normally go to theatre I am well versed in the songs and dialogue of the show.  I HIGHLY recommend it

I can't wait to see Les Mis now, though I know I've got to prep myself for an even longer show when I go there.

So I only have 2 pics for you, but here they are!

The Victoria Palace Theatre

This is where we got upgraded to. Not too bad.

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