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Billy Elliot
a Musical
by Elton John (music) and Lee Hall (words)

COMPANY : City Springs Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Byers Theatre at City Springs [WEBSITE]
ID# 5494

SHOWING : May 03, 2019 - May 12, 2019



Winner of 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical and TIME Magazine’s “Best Musical of the Decade,” "Billy Elliot the Musical" is based on the international smash-hit film featuring a score by music legend and part-time Atlantan Elton John. In its first locally produced staging, Billy Elliot the Musical is an astonishing theatrical experience that will stay with you forever. Set in a northern English mining town against the background of the 1984 miners’ strike, "Billy Elliot the Musical" is the inspirational story of a young boy’s struggle against the odds to make his dream come true. Follow Billy’s journey as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and community… and changes his life forever. With a powerful storyline, a rousing score, and sensational choreography, "Billy Elliot the Musical" is an uplifting and spectacular event that is an unforgettably captivating!

Director Brandt Blocker
Ensemble Matthew Bonaker
Ensemble T’Arica Crawford
George George Deavours
Ensemble Brittany Ellis
Mrs. Wilkinson Pamela Gold
Ensemble Tony Hayes
Grandma Karen Howell
Mum Bethany Irby
Ensemble Matt McCubbin
Tony Haden Rider
Ensemble Jeremy Wood
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Boy from the North Country
by playgoer
Monday, May 20, 2019
If you’ve never seen the musical "Billy Elliot" and want an introduction to it, the City Springs production is a great place for that introduction. If you have seen the Broadway or touring version, though, what you see at City Springs may disappoint you. Campbell Baird’s set design is a near-carbon copy of the Broadway original, and Brandt Blocker’s direction and Cindy Mora Reiser’s choreography do not always serve the script well. Mr. Blocker seems to have encouraged his actors to be so extreme in comic physical movements that they seem overblown even from the balcony. Ms. Reiser’s choreography, while being highly effective in numbers involving the policemen, makes the scene of Billy’s introduction to ballet a baffling puzzlement: Billy attempts no dance moves and shows no interest in dancing, so the teacher requesting him to return makes next to no sense. Most of the dance numbers are flavored greatly by the original Broadway choreography, although Mike Wood’s effective lighting design makes them more visible in the City Springs version.

Even so, there’s plenty of talent to watch. Much of the talent is new to Atlanta, but there are plenty of area favorites too. Karen Howell does her usual fine job as Grandma, and Haden Rider brings a lot of unbridled anger to Billy’s older brother Tony. George Deavours adds perhaps a bit too much fey charm to boxing coach George, but sings well, as does Bethany Irby in her smallish role as Billy’s Mum. Jeremy Wood, wasted in the ensemble, has a small part as a posh ballet dad that affords him his only chance to shine. Sarah Charles Lewis is a little tall as the daughter of powerhouse Pamela Gold, who plays dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson, but acquits herself well. Ms. Gold herself is the standout of the show, marrying great singing, acting, and dancing to make her role the central pivot of the show.

Drew McVety, recently from Broadway, does a creditable job as Billy’s father, and Seth Black-Diamond becomes an audience favorite as cross-dressing kid Michael (although the loud orchestra in Stephen Kraack’s sound design for his big number, "Expressing Yourself," basically drowns out all lyrics). Liam Redford is perfectly fine in the title role, having played it three previous times, and the rest of cast step up to their roles with enthusiasm.

Thick accents and dialectical speech patterns can make the dialogue difficult to follow for American ears. Dialect coach Cara Reid has done a good job of balancing understandability with authenticity, so only Matt Bonaker’s speech is unintelligible. Lee Hall’s script is heavy on repetition, particularly of the frequent foul language, so that helps understandability too.

The show does not start out promisingly. Newsreel footage is projected to ground the story in Thatcher-era British mining history, and the red curtain background of the footage makes it look unsubstantial and cheap. The impression of third-rate production values is enhanced when sound board operator Grace Randall is then late in turning up microphones for the start of the opening number (which may not occur at all performances, but certainly occurred in glaring fashion at the matinee I attended). The mix of live music for the song-and-dance portions of the show and canned orchestral music for transitions and dance sequences also helps create an impression that not all technical effort is being put forth.

Amanda Edgerton West’s costumes work well enough for the grim, grimy scenes of mining town life, but tend to get a bit garish for the ballet class sequences (where dancing is far more show-biz-y than balletic). Costuming for the extended curtain call adds a clever touch to tie up the show.

Music director Judy Cole has gotten good vocals out of the ensemble and adult singers. The children also acquit themselves well, with tiny vocal warbles evident only in solo moments. The orchestra plays well, although brass can be overpowering in the sound mix. Overall, this is a nicely professional production that pales only in comparison to the superior Broadway touring company that introduced the show to Atlanta audiences. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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