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Billy Elliot the Musical – a Kid-Oriented Review

In the search for kid-friendly Broadway shows, Billy Elliot was on the list. After all, it centers on a pre-teen boy, with plenty of peers in the cast.

But would my 7 year old son want to watch a boy doing ballet? Would he fall asleep during the three hour production? Would he understand the plot about the British coal-workers’ strike? How would he react to the curse words used during the production?

I needn’t have worried. Both he, and my 9 year old daughter, loved the show, and so did I. Even in nose-bleed seats.

It’s inspiring for kids to see a Broadway show carried by someone close to their own age. The four boys who play Billy (they take turns) are around 11-12 years old. Two of them are making their Broadway debuts in this role.

Peter Mazurowski played Billy the night of our show, and his acting and dancing were terrific. He definitely wasn’t hired for his singing ability, though he sang just fine. Equally as good was Billy’s sidekick Michael, played by Jake Evan Schwencke, who had an awesome stage presence.

If you haven’t seen the movie, the Billy Elliot focuses on a coal-mining town in Northern England during 1984. Margaret Thatcher is threatening to close the coal mines, as she was against state England’s ownership of them. The miners went on strike for a year, dealing with riot police, their own wage losses and internal union struggles. They watched their livelihood slip down the drain. Billy lives in a traditionally conservative household, with his father, grandmother and brother (mom is dead).

After a boring boxing class one day, Billy stays to watch a ballet (pronounced “bally” in the show) class. And soon after he joins in, without telling his family. You probably already know that Billy turns out to be a talented dancer, and his teacher grooms him for an audition at the Royal Ballet School. His family goes through the angst of deciding whether to support his dancing dreams, and Billy later has to choose between going to ballet school and staying in his dying town.

Each of my kids had a different favorite scene, and both were excellent. Zack liked the riot police scene, with Billy’s frenetic dancing, and the beat of the riot police shields hitting the ground. Dori loved the fantastical scene where Billy and his friend Michael dress up in girls’ clothes, joined by larger-than-life dancing dresses.

And about those curse words. Yes, they were there. Fortunately, between the British accents and slang, my kids didn’t understand most of them anyway. They also missed the insinuations about Michael’s sexuality (and possibly Billy’s), being labeled a “poof.”

In spite of going to the evening show (which at least starts at 7:30 instead of 8), the kids were wide awake and paying attention the whole time. With several emotional moments throughout the production, both Dori and I had tears in our eyes (though Zack couldn’t figure out why we were crying).

When it was over, my son said “I bet the kid who played Billy could do a lot more dancing than he did here.” And I think he’s right.

2 comments to Billy Elliot the Musical – a Kid-Oriented Review

  • joel rosenberg

    i am 74 and i saw the movie, i would love to see the stage version when it plays in l.a. calf. i live on social security, my health is no good, i have cancer and i also have a deteriorated vertebra. if you can help me see this show before i pass it would be greatly appreciated

  • jerseykids

    Mr. Rosenberg – I’m sorry to hear about your poor health. I searched to see when Billy Elliot was playing in L.A. and didn’t get any information. Perhaps it’s not scheduled there at the time. If you hear when it’s coming, I’m certainly happy to reach out to them for you. I don’t have contacts there, so no guarantees, but I’m happy to ask.

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