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.
Billy's hot-headed brother Tony is Drew Livingston. Drew's stage work has seen him work extensively since graduating from WAAPA in 2010 including productions for the Sydney Theatre Company and in the acclaimed Australian production of the National Theatre's War Horse.
Award winning actor Robert Grubb stars as George, a miner and the town's boxing coach. Robert is one of Australia's most versatile actors having worked extensively on stage and screen starring in many and varied television and film roles including Flying Doctors, Mad Max, and Gallipoli. Robert's musical theatre credits including MAMMA MIA! the Musical, Sunset Boulevard, We Will Rock You, which earnt him a Helpmann Award and most recently Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Other adult cast members forming this outstanding company include Dean Vince (Mr Braithwaite), Danielle Everett (Dead Mum), Aaron Smyth (Older Billy), Damien Bermingham (Big Davy) and (in alphabetical order) Justin Anderson, Jordana Beatty, Dion Bilios, Rachel Cole, Josh Gardiner, Isabel Hawthorne, Matt Heyward, Barbara Hughes, Caroline Kaspar, Alexander 'Zan' Kermond, Zoë Komazec, Sarah Kate Landy, Michael Lindner, Jayme-Jo Massoud, Joe Miller, Joshua Russell, David Sirianni, Lisa Sontag, Tahlia Traecey, Darren Tyler and Paul Whiteley.
The incredible children's cast includes Mason Kidd, Hamish Monger, Oscar Mulcahy, James Sonnemann (Michael), Chanel Charles, Gabrielle Daggar, Ella Tebbutt (Debbie) and in alphabetical order Sienna Balewai, Tiarne Evans, Mia Jonson, Jamie Kelly, Melody Kurniawan, Tahlia McGregor, Sienna Miroforidis, Mica Santos, Indianna Thompson and Zoe Tsang.
The hugely successful West End musical premiered in Australia in 2007 as the first international production outside of the UK, prior to its Broadway premiere. With the first Australian tour concluding in Melbourne in 2009, this new 10th Anniversary Tour kicks off in 2019, ten years after the curtain came down in Australia. Billy enjoyed huge critical acclaim with Sydney and Melbourne audiences flocking to the theatre, however the physical design was so complex at the time, that touring beyond those two cities was not possible. Now with some clever adjustments, the Producers are delighted that this incredible stage production is able to tour to other capital cities. Now all of Australia can experience the magic and fall in love with Billy Elliot the Musical.
Based on the film of the same name, Billy Elliot the Musical is a funny, gritty, heart-warming and feel- good celebration following the journey of a young boy raised in a small British mining town. Set against the backdrop of the 1984/'85 miners' strike, Billy's journey takes him out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family, the whole community and changes his life forever.
Billy Elliot the Musical premiered in London in 2005 and since then has been seen across five continents, winning numerous awards and millions of fans along the way. After winning five Olivier Awards including Best Actor in a Musical for the three Billys and Best Musical, the first international production opened in Sydney in 2007 which garnered eight Helpmann Awards including Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical for the four boys who shared the role of Billy in 2008. This was followed by an incredibly successful Broadway run which had the extraordinary honour of winning ten Tony Awards in 2009, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Male Actor in a Musical for the three boys that shared the role of Billy. Productions have been staged all over the world including the West End, Australia, Broadway, North American tour, Chicago, Toronto, The Netherlands, UK & Ireland Tour, Hamburg, Tokyo and Seoul.
Billy Elliot the Musical was brought to the stage by the multiple award-winning creative team behind the film including writer Lee Hall (book and lyrics), director Stephen Daldry and choreographer Peter Darling, joined by Elton John who composed the show's score. The production features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, costume design by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Martin Koch.
Melbourne – Regent Theatre From February 20th, 2020