Left – River Mardesic. Cover – River Mardesic and Aaron Smyth. Photos – James D. Morgan
You know the movie. You know the feel good story of a young boy, from an unlikely background discovering a love and talent for ballet. It's a passion that's at odds with expectations and understanding of his family. Billy Elliot is the ultimate story of triumph over adversity. With music written by Elton John, this musical adaptation of of the movie which premiered twenty years ago, is now playing at Melbourne's Regent Theatre.
Set in an English coal mining community in the early 1980s, adolescent Billy, discovers a love of ballet an interest that is so at odds with understanding and expectations of his family and wider community. Billy's father, played with real heart by (Justin Smith) and brother (Drew Livingstone) take a stand along with thousands of others, against Maggie Thatcher's conservative government actions to close the mines, taking away jobs and destroy forever a way of life.
It is challenging to both of them the idea that their son / brother wants something from his life neither of them have any comprehension of themselves. As the tension on the picket lines creates friction and unrest outside the front door, the struggle to understand Billy's desire to dance creates high tension around the kitchen table. As his family try to make sense of what it means Billy's dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson (Lisa Sontag) nurtures him and gives him encouragement to dream.
The sets and lighting production work beautifully to create a time and place that is historic but so recognisable as both familial and intimate and also desperate in conflict.
But at the very centre and heart of this story is of course Billy himself. Played throughout the production run by four boys, I was delighted to see River Mardesic light up the stage as a cheeky, fierce and endearing Billy. This is River's professional stage debut and based on the level of nuanced performance, vocally, dance and acting, this is a young man with a very bright theatrical career.
This is a long show but never will you find yourself aching for it to end. While not wanting to give away any spoilers, you will be a hardened soul not to be moved by the gorgeous dance Billy has with his older self. Truly moving.
Buy a ticket today, and while it may feel the world is a cold place right now, bask in the warm glow as Billy wins his moment to Shine!
Universal Theatrical Group, Working Title Films, Greene Light Stage, Michael Coppel Entertainments and Louise Withers presents
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL
music Elton John | book and lyrics Lee Hall
Director Stephen Daldry
Venue: Regent Theatre | 191 Collins St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 22 Feb – 19 April, 2020