Review: The captivating Billy Elliot the Musical has opened at Melbourne's Regent Theatre with a crowd of whistles, heartwarming applause and several standing ovations. Including an extremely talented cast of performers (most of those young) the musical showcases a range of beautifully choreographed dance styles (ballet, tap, jazz, aerial and contemporary) and incredibly strong vocal performances to platform the important messages of acceptance, support and community.
The musical, based on the film, offers a complex look into the Elliot family, during the mining pit closure strikes of 1984-5, where 12-year-old Billy stumbles upon a ballet class, after his Saturday boxing session and becomes passionately intrigued by the world of dance, how it makes him feel and what it can offer him.
The whole cast are superb in their portrayal especially 11-year-old River Mardesic who played the role of Billy Elliot on opening night. River captivates an entire stage, especially during solos and continually mesmerised the entire theatre, I could not admire him more. Four boys share the role of Billy Elliot and rightly so as the character of Billy hardly leaves the stage amongst the 3-hour show.
I absolutely have to acknowledge Lisa Sontag in her role as Mrs Wilkinson, her fabulous portrayal as Billy's ballet teacher truly carries the performance forward with her encouraging presence even amongst a stage filled with young children.
The all singing, all dancing joy that is Billy Elliot the Musical will have audiences leaving ecstatically uplifted and beyond impressed even if only by the three talented souls tap-dancing and skipping rope, at the same time!
- Brooke Hunter
Presented by Universal Theatrical Group, Working Title Films, Greene Light Stage, Michael Coppel Entertainments and Louise Withers Presents, the 10th Anniversary Australian tour just completed a successful Sydney season and now moves to the Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre from December 29 2019 before then heading to Melbourne at the Regent Theatre from February 20th, 2020.
Featuring music by the legendary Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, choreography by Peter Darling and direction by Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot the Musical has been seen by over 12 million people worldwide.
Acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, it is the recipient of 85 awards internationally, including 10 Tony Awards, 5 Olivier Awards and 8 Helpmann Awards.
Sharing the celebrated lead role are Omar Abiad (12, from Brisbane), River Mardesic (11, from Melbourne), Wade Neilsen (13, from Newcastle) and Jamie Rogers (13, from Canberra). The boys were cast following extensive auditions, and after months of intensive rehearsals will alternate in the role of Billy in the Australian tour of Billy Elliot the Musical. All four boys are making their professional debut playing this most extraordinary and inspiring role.
Starring alongside these talented boys as the tough but supportive ballet teacher Mrs Wilkinson is Lisa Sontag.
She made her professional debut in the original cast of The Boy From Oz before graduating from WAAPA and going on to productions including Guys and Dolls, The Boy From Oz and as Zelda Zanders in Singin' in the Rain.
Most recently, Lisa performed in and understudied multiple lead roles in MAMMA MIA! The Musical, The Producers, Hayes Theatre's Sweet Charity, Mary Poppins, Les Misérables, The Addams Family, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and she won a Green Room Award for Best Supporting Actress in Grease – The Arena Spectacular.
Amongst other film and TV work Lisa is an accomplished dance teacher and choreographer also running her own Music and Movement Programs for Preschools.
Justin Smith joins the cast in the role of Dad, Billy's stoic father. Justin is an acclaimed theatre and screen actor with musical credits including Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent. Most poignantly he also starred as Tony, Billy's older brother in the original Australian production of Billy Elliot the Musical so it will be very special to see Justin take the generational leap and take on the role of the Dad in this heart-warming story.
Playing Billy's eccentric Grandma is actress Vivien Davies. Her extensive career has seen her perform in musicals including Les Misérables, Menopause the Musical, Buddy and Dusty as well in many and varied productions with the Melbourne Theatre Company.