Billy Elliot is growing up in a gritty mining town, the youngest son of a fiercely proud coal miner. In 1984, when the musical takes place, a storm is raging.
Striking coal miners and their families survive on the generosity of neighbors. At the end of the strike, steel doors clang shut on the miners as they descend underground, broken and defeated. Floodlights turn on the audience and we share their misery.
Billy responds to the despair around him in an angry dance. It is riveting, terrible and beautiful.
This young boy’s life is beset by tragedy, but not crippled by it. In a pas de deux with a grown-up version of himself, performed by Maximilian A. Baud, it is impossible to tear your eyes away. The elder Billy’s flawless leaps show the audience what’s at stake. Billy could rise to the heights.
His journey is not easy. The family fights are heart wrenching and the street fights bloody. Margaret Thatcher’s riot police, sing in thunderous voices behind riot shields. The miners retaliate with fierce singing and dancing. Then the line of riot police opens and Mrs. Wilkinson’s ballet class flutters through in tutus.
The odds are stacked against Billy, but he gets the needed lift into a new life. He sheepishly finds a mother figure in Mrs. Wilkinson, his ballet teacher who recognizes his gifts and champions him.
Billy is harassed for being a poof when declares his desire to his father and brother. But his young friend Michael is discovering his homosexuality and encourages Billy to try on women’s clothing. And they sing together with a chorus line of tap-dancing dresses.
The community donates money for his bus fare to London for his audition at the Royal Ballet Academy. The interviewer asks him how he feels when he dances. Billy is silent a long moment, then responds that he hears the music and the dance bursts out from his chest.
The tall, thin boy, Kylend Hetherington, danced his heart out at a recent San Francisco performance and stole the show. Kudos also to Elton John whose music propelled the narrative.
Billy Elliot The Musical plays until August 21 in San Francisco. Book tickets online or call 888.746.1799.
Billy Elliot is on tour in other U.S. cities. Theater tickets make great birthday gifts.
- Appleton, Wisconson
- Columbus, Ohio
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Philadelphia & Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Rochester, New York
- Washington, DC
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Fort Lauderdale & Orlando, Florida
- Atlanta, Georgia
- San Antonio, Texas
- Los Angeles, California
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Boston, Massachusetts
—Donna Peck, Laurel Kadish. Photography: SHN Broadway