I didn’t really get teary at the “sad bits” in “Billy Elliott” tonight at the Capitol Theatre. I mean, the bits with his dead mother were pretty sad, and I could certainly relate to them, having lost my own mum (and dad) at a young age. No, the bits that made me cry were those moments of strong and raw emotion.
As the curtain rose tonight, images of British coal workers from the post WW2 period were flashed on a translucent screen. Behind the screen, a group of more modernly dressed coal workers appeared on stage. When they began to sing in unison (and were later joined by women and children) about working class solidarity (and such) in the context of the 1980s national coal strike in Britain, my eyes welled up.
Irrespective of the politics involved, there’s something about voices singing as one that’s so incredibly moving. And I guess that’s why this was a recurrent theme throughout the play. At one point, the miners are alone. And then they’re joined by their families. And later by the police who were sent in to “keep the peace” and to force them back to work. Later. there’s an amazing scene where Billy does his “angry dance” with miners and police officers rioting in the background. And then even later, a scene where the riot squad comes out with see-through shields. It was incredibly powerful and very moving.
Along-side the political theme of the musical, there was another I could relate to: that of a small town boy, sensitive by nature, who pursues a dream. In a classic feel-good kinda way, you just want Billy to go on and become a ballet dancer, and you just want his family and community to support him. Although Billy makes it, you can’t help but feel for his young mate who left behind, played with a hell of a lot panache by a gifted young actor. And did I tell you Billy’s part was absolutely tremendous, played by a group of obviously gifted young singers, actors and dancers? Oh, and there’s a wonderful moment where Billy the adult dances with Billy the child.
I could relate to so many of the characters. Billy’s was the kind of family I grew up in. An average ordinary working-class family, a bit surprised at first by the choices their young brother took moving away, but incredibly loving and supportive along the way. This was a tremendous theatre experience that I couldn’t help but recommend to everyone.
And I wasn’t the only teary one, I can assure you. Both the women next to me and her husband had very puffy eyes as we got up to leave the theatre.