Two new Billie’s for Melbourne

August 18, 2008

Tonight I met Libby at Her Majesties Theatre to see the preview to Melbourne’s Billie Elliot. The show begins here in December. Libby was invited to the preview because she coordinates group bookings for the school where she teaches music. I used to work with her. She often invites me to join her when she takes her students to shows, but this was the first preview I’ve been to.

I admit, I was expecting to see the whole show tonight and was initially disappointed when I sat down in the Stalls after complimentary champagne to learn that this was not going to be the case. However, tonight I heard one of the producers and one of the key actors speak about the show, I was introduced to the four “Billie’s”, I watched them perform together and saw the DVD of the audition process. 

A big deal was made of the fact that two new “Billies” were joining the show for the Melbourne performances. Like many of us who are not aware of the logistics of staging shows of this scale that employ over fifty children, it tickled me to listen to the producer talk of their “Billies” in plural. It was an education for me and a delight to have ‘met’ all four of them.

Each of these Australian boys, when interviewed, spoke in familiar Aussie accents, yet in character produced a thick Irish twang. Their performance of the song at the moment when Billie describes how he feels to dance brought a tear to my eye.  These four boys danced sublimely, each of them obviously gymnasts as well as classically trained. 

I came away from the preview rather inspired on a number of levels. Firstly, the quality of dancing in the Billie’s performance was astonishing. It would be for this reason alone that I will see the show, and take as many family and friends as I can with me. 

Secondly, I came away with a feeling of pride for Australian theatre. Billie Elliot has been running in Sydney for a year. Australia is the second home of the musical Billie Elliot. It doesn’t open on Broadway until later in the year!

In April I was in New York, staying on Broadway. I was there for a conference, but saw Chicago the day I arrived. Aspects of the show were disappointing. For example the lawyer was poorly cast (played by a non-charismatic character who couldn’t tap), and the set and costuming were unexciting. 

A couple of weeks later in Melbourne, I saw Guys and Dolls with Libby and was impressed with it in comparison to Chicago on Broadway. At the time I remarked to Libby that I needn’t have gone to New York to see a great show. I’m feeling the same way tonight after previewing Billie Elliot: Its all right here at my finger tips in Melbourne!

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