Billy Elliot is the heartwarming story of a young boy from a working-class family who discovers a passion that will change his life forever. Eleven-year-old miner's son Billy Elliot is on his way to boxing lessons when he ... more »stumbles upon a ballet class. Billy secretly joins the class, knowing that his blue-collar family would never understand. Under the guidance of his teacher Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy's raw talent takes flight. But when his father discovers his son's ambition, Billy must fight for his dreams and his destiny.« less
Billy Elliot is the heartwarming story of a young boy from a working-class family who discovers a passion that will change his life forever. Eleven-year-old miner's son Billy Elliot is on his way to boxing lessons when he stumbles upon a ballet class. Billy secretly joins the class, knowing that his blue-collar family would never understand. Under the guidance of his teacher Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy's raw talent takes flight. But when his father discovers his son's ambition, Billy must fight for his dreams and his destiny.
"Could they make a musical of 'Billy Elliot' set in the midlands of England against the back-drop of an increasingly violent coal miners strike? Well they could and they did and it's an absolute triumph. Bold and brilliant character driven songs by Elton John and Lee Hall propel the story of 'Billy Elliot' the young lad who trades his boxing gloves for ballet slippers. Sung and acted by a terrific ensemble but special notice must be paid to Haydn Gwynne as Mrs Wilkinson, Billys tart-tongued, chain-smoking dance teacher and Liam Mower as Billy Elliot.
From the rousing opening 'THE STARS LOOK DOWN' to the conclusion, the reprise of 'THE LETTER' through snippets of dialogue, music,lyrics and even dance provide a concise narrative of the story as it unfolds.
Mrs Wilkinson has a couple of strong numbers 'SHINE' and 'BORN TO BOOGIE' and she and the ballet class share a 9-minute stunner 'SOLIDARITY' with the picketing miners. Amazingly the two disparate plot themes play off each other beautifully. 'SOLIDARITY' is perhaps the most controversial moment in the show as it is here the miners detonate the F-bomb. The explosion occurs at a well-timed and unexpected moment and jolts just by its sheer audaciousness and ferocity.
Billy shares a bright and breezy number with his cross-dressing friend Michael 'EXPRESSING YOURSELF' which features an exhausting 'chase' dance break. Billy also sings the contents of 'THE LETTER' written to him by his dying mother and he imagines her singing it with him in a lovely and poignant duet.
Then there's the thunderbolt 'ANGRY DANCE' which is a confrontation between Billy and his father and a confrontation between the miners and the police. With Elton Johns pulsating, driving music and Billys floor-pounding dance and yells it's the musical equivelant of riding on an out of control rollercoaster without holding onto the safety bar. It leaves you exhilerated and breathless.
The miners have a lighter moment at a Union Christmas party where they offer a back-handed tribute to their nemesis, 'MERRY CHRISTMAS, MAGGIE THATCHER' and a Merry Christmas is not what they are wishing for her.
'ELECTRICITY' is Billys reply to a question at his Royal Ballet audition "what is it you feel when you are dancing?' and this leads to a dance break which samples a bit of 'Swan Lake' an echo of 'Riverdance' and rock and this heady mix sparks and crackles like....electricity.
There are other gems in this score such as 'GRANDMAS' SONG' 'HE COULD BE A STAR' and 'ONCE WE WERE KINGS' where the victorious miners(not really-their union caves) sing full-throated and loudly as they head back to the mines.
As Billy prepares to leave home he shares a final moment with his 'mother', 'THE LETTER'-reprise and after a choked-up goodbye from his friend Michael the show ends as Billy, suitcase in hand, walks onto a stage toward a bank of stagelights. (This end is depicted in the accompanying booklet)
'THE FINALE' which is the actors bows is unusual as the entire ensemble tap-dances to the musical excerpts from the show.
'Billy Elliot' has to be one of the best if not the best cast recording in many years and no praise from me can do full justice to the brilliance of this enthralling CD. BRAVO!!!"
FANTASTIC MUSICAL ADAPTATION OF THE ORIGINAL MOVIE
Marijan Bosnar | Croatia | 08/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When the movie `Billy Elliot', written by Lee Hall and directed by Stephen Daldry, hit the cinemas in the year 2000, both the critics and the audiences where somewhat taken aback. It became an instant success, defying the customs of the day by not having star names or a big Hollywood blockbuster director in its credit lines. A simple story, about a young talented boy growing up in the English north, during the 1984 miners strike against Margaret Thatcher's conservative government, wanting to pursue his dream of becoming a ballet dancer and thusly going against everything his own establishment and surroundings stood for (beautifully summarised in a phrase used in both the movie and the musical: `ballet is for poofs'), seemed to deliver the message and hit the critics and the cinemagoers alike. Apart from these accolades the movie got several BEFTA and Academy Award nominations.
After seeing the Cannes screening of the movie that literally sent him home in tears, Elton John, who at the time already had a name in the world of musical theatre as the composer of `The Lion King' and `Aida' in his collaboration with Tim Rice, was certain that the movie has all the potential for a musical adaptation. It is quite a good thing that he stuck to the idea and even more, he decided to use the original creative team that was involved with the movie and had both the knowledge of and love for the material. Thusly the director Stephen Daldry directed and Lee Hall the screenwriter wrote the lyrics for the musical version. After the musical started its previews in March 2005 it was praised by the critics as the best thing that happened to the British musical theatre in years and has been playing to the full house in London's Victoria Palace Theatre night after night. Among other things it won the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award as the best musical.
This CD cast recording catches all the main musical numbers of the production. The score Elton John composed for this occasion is quite different from his prior show `Aida'. The latter had some exceptional pop, rock and roll and gospel numbers that won you over after the first listen. This is a bit different. Some of the numbers are deeply rooted into the framework of the North English area where the action takes place. This means we have some gorgeous working class hymns, songs of male choirs and club rock and roll music. They are all very well made, but it is not something that will probably make you ecstatic in an Andrew Lloyd Webber sense after the first listen. With a couple of listening, however, the score just grows on you so much you keep revisiting it over and over again. Several of the songs in the canon, however, hit you in the heart from the start. Some of the examples are: `The stars look down' (a very melodic opening anthem sung by the miners expressing their pledge to remain loyal to their just cause and honest way of life); `The letter' (a guaranteed tearjerker, a moving song in form of a letter written to Billy by his late mum before she died); `Electricity' (a big showstopper with Billy's elaborate dancing and explaining the way he feels when he dances) and a simple yet touching `He could be a star' (when Billy's dad decides to end his strike against the majority of his co-workers and go back to work so that he could help his son go to an audition to The Royal Ballet School in London). Other numbers are downright funny, such as `Grandma's song' (in which Billy's old and a bit senile nan deliberates about the painful life the women of her age had no choice but to lead after they got married very young), `Expressing yourself' (a hilarious number where young Billy joins his best friend, a nice closeted cross dresser gay guy Michael in wearing a women's tacky clothes of the 80-is, but this is rather a call for a need to support each person's individuality and be tolerant) and a giggling song called `Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher' (where the mining community expresses their disapproval of their political foe at their annual Christmas party). As a whole, Elton John has made his most ambitious musical theatre score up to date with this. Lee Hall's lyric reflect the language of the area and are very witty.
Some of the numbers must be seen on the stage to be fully appreciated, so the best thing to do would be to see the show in London. As someone who just did that, I can say it is definitely worth your time and money.
The cast on this CD does a very good job. Billy is portrayed by Liam Mower, one of the three boys who were originally selected to play the role; due to the fact that one child actor could not do such a demanding job six nights plus two matinees a week. Liam has a voice of an angel and he deservedly won his Laurence Oliver award, becoming the youngest person ever to do so. His vocals transfer all of the characters actions and emotions in the perfect way. His grumpy and encouraging ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, is played with much gusto by Haydn Gwynne, who puts on a great accent at that. Stephanie Putson evokes sadness with her short appearances as Billy's dead mum. Ultimately, it is the whole ensemble with these talented soloists that manages to deliver this touching story.
The single CD comes with some credits and production pictures, but no synopsis or lyrics are included, which can be quite hard for the people who are not familiar with the story. There is also a 2-disc edition, with a second disc where Elton John himself performs a couple of songs, and that one features the lyrics. The best thing to do would be to see the original movie before listening to this cast recording.
At the end of the day, `Billy Elliot' comes as a true winner in the current offer of the West End. The story can be applied to everyone who wants to pursue their own dreams or just simply to express themselves in the best way they can. This cast recording serves as a good testimony of the show that will fulfil you in a most rewarding way if you ever have a chance to see it, but it works just fine as an ordinary cast recording. The second best thing next to seeing this show alive would be a good DVD issue of this musical, so that is something to hope upon while listening to this CD at home."
All hail Sir Elton - please bring "Billy Elliott" to America
I. Sondel | Tallahassee, FL United States | 05/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My "dear friend" Vene e-mailed frantically - "have you heard the CD of 'Billy Eliott'? it's incredible, you've got to get it." I didn't rush right out, but eventually I got around to buying it. After thirty years I should know to trust whatever Vene says to be gospel, and "Billy Elliott: The Musical" perfectly illustrates this fact once again - it's brilliant.
It's been at least since "A Man of No Importance" (maybe "Ragtime" - both by Flaherty and Ahrens - hmmm) that I've been so moved by a musical theatre piece. Perhaps it's because I adored the film, or because I've always been a huge fan of Elton John and his theatrical pop-rock tunes, or because I'm a just your garden variety musical theatre queen [and proud of it!], but "Billy Elliott: The Musical" has delivered a giant jolt of electricity to my system - leaving me shaken and exhilarated and stirred all at once.
The score by Sir Elton and Lee Hall is nearly flawless, with one great character driven number after another. "The Stars Look Down" is a powerful opening, "Grandma's Song" and "He Could Be a Star" are heart felt, "Solidarity" features a tune that will repeat in your head for days and days. However, the four numbers I found unforgettable were: "Electricty" - which finds Billy trying to explain what he feels when he dances; "The Letter" - an emotionally devastating ballad sung by Billy's dead mother; the absolutely joyous "Expressing Yourself" which partners Billy with his flamboyantly gay friend in a rant and rave against conformity; "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher" is a rambunctious, infectious music hall number sung by the ensemble. All of the performances, without exception, are top drawer.
It's no wonder that "Billy Elliott: The Musical" is the biggest smash hit playing in London and has won all of the season's top awards. Please, please, please hurry up and bring it across the pond - I will gladly trek from Tallahassee to Broadway to see the musical of the decade!"
Fantastic Prelude to the Musical
West End Fan | Southern California | 08/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While in London earlier this year, I admittedly (and quite wrongly)avoided seeing "Billy Elliot the Musical" while seeing other disappointing West End plays. Even though friends enthusiastically recommended Billy Elliot, I stubborning refused to beleive that a musical could be carried off by a 13-year-old boy.
Geez, was I wrong.
After listening to the cast recording (three listens the 1st day), seeing Elton John's "Electricity" music video, and seeing numerous programs featuring Liam Mower (Young Billy) dancing, I am convinced that once this hits our shores, it will be an absolute smash.
Remember, all the music is by Sir Elton John, and the musical is directed by the same man who directed the movie. Plus, the three boys playing Billy Elliot were the youngest recipients of the Lawrence Olivier award, which I suppose is the equivalent to our Tony.
Don't expect Elton's old music, but expect hearing his exceptional talent. He has also said that Billy in some ways is autobiographical, so the music takes on an additional dimension.
The musical is gritty with obscenities (abeit British obscenties), minimalisitic, fabulous, intense, touching, funny, sad, and energzing. I have my tickets to the Victoria Palace. (PS: It'll help if you understand the Geordie accent...)
I predict that the song "Electricity" will reach #1 on the American charts in 2007/2008 when it's released here."
Outstanding, but I'm biased.
Karl Sarff | Boston, MA | 03/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, I've seen the musical in London, twice. Both times I travelled from Boston to London for the express purpose of seeing the musical. Stupid, perhaps, but rewarding none the less. While in some respects this is not the best musical soundtrack in the world, I can't imageine anyone who's seen the production even once who won't be delighted and entranced by listening to the soundtrack for the sheer joy of all the memories being brought back to life, remembering what's happening on the stage, and the COMBINATION of the two, might actually BE the most outstanding thing I've ever experienced in theater.
Actually, that fact only impresses me more. For Elton John to have put his "pop" tendancies in his back pocket for a while and actually write music that fits not only to the story of Billy Elliot, but music that fits specific actions, emotions and even the strengths of the particular type of cast that had to be chosen to tell the story, is a great victory, and a stupendous acheivement.
First, I recommend that if you like a) musicals in general or b) the movie "Billy Elliot" you should buck up, bite the bullet, and take a trip to London and see the show. No matter how much you spend, I highly doubt that you'll regret it.
As for the soundtrack itself, well, hell, buy it. Buy two. This will, perhaps, convice the production to move across the pond and grace our own country with this exceptional experience.