Hey you, Chicagoland.
Pay close attention to what you’re about to read:
GO SEE THE DRURY LANE PRODUCTION OF “BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL”!
Yes, I yelled.
And yes, I said “effing” in the title up there. I would have used the actual F word in honor of its major role in the musical, but this is a family-friendly blog.
Let me back up for a minute.
The fine folks at Drury Lane in Oakbrook asked me to come and check out the show, on their dime, and I jumped at the chance. I loved the movie, and just a few months ago my sister and I went to see (and loved) the London production of the musical, via Fathom Events and our local movie theater.
So I didn’t even hesitate before sending in my RSVP.
Not only did this production fail to disappoint me in any way, it also actually vaulted to the space in the very top of my “Best Shows Melisa Has Ever Seen Live” list, as in…”Wicked” territory. (ooh, and if you know anything about how much I love “Wicked”, you’ll know this is extremely sky-high praise.) I was completely blown away, and quite literally in a state of shock at how much I enjoyed it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, here’s a summary:
“Billy Elliot” follows a young boy as he trades in his boxing gloves for dancing shoes. In the story, which is set in a small mining town in the English countryside, a dance teacher finds a diamond in the rough when she discovers Billy, who has a passion for dance and ends up inspiring the entire community. Elton John composed the score (which is full of tremendously catchy songs). The original production won ten Tony Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical.
For this regional production, Artistic Director William Osetek and his team wondered, “Are Billy Elliots found or made?” They realized after searching for months that the latter was true. “The search required a young actor who brought incredible raw talent, but needed to be cultivated to stand up to the impossible task of performing the role of a young boy whose dance ability leaves one breathless.” The two boys selected for the Drury Lane production are Nicholas Dantes and Kyle Halford (Chicago natives, whoop whoop!) and they have worked for months, honing their skills in ballet, acrobatics, and tap, not to mention acting and vocal lessons.
That philosophy and the boys’ hard work paid off. Nicholas Dantes was last night’s Billy, and we were indeed left breathless by just about everything he did. He wasn’t the only talented youngster on stage, though. Every single kid in the cast impressed me immensely, from Zachary Uzarraga (who charmed everyone in the theater as “Small Boy”: MY GOD WAS HE ADORABLE) to Michael Harp (as Billy’s fearlessly expressive best friend Michael) to Peyton Shaffer (as snarky Debbie) to the rest of the ballet dancers (full of sass, all of them!). I wish I had as much talent in my pinky as those kids have.
The adults were no different. Susie McMonagle was brilliant as Mrs. Wilkinson, and Maureen Gallagher as Grandma was perfect casting. Ron E. Rains, who plays Billy’s dad, was amazing to watch in his transformation from a weary widow who couldn’t manage to support his son’s dancing dreams to a very proud papa who was in awe of his son’s Royal Ballet School audition.
Though you may not believe it because it rarely happens, this production left me speechless. And I’m going back to see it again in a couple of weeks: THAT’S how much I enjoyed it. Once again I have to say that you don’t have to go to the city to see a top-notch show. Drury Lane in Oakbrook is right off the highway, parking is free, and every seat is excellent. Oh, and it’s AFFORDABLE.
You can catch “Billy Elliot” at Drury Lane through June 7. The performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. ($45), Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. ($45) and 8:00 p.m. ($55), Fridays at 8:00 p.m. ($60), Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. ($60) and 8:30 p.m. ($60), and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($60) and 6:00 p.m. ($55). Student group and senior citizen pricing is available. For more information, visit the Drury Lane website.
So…maybe I’ll see you there?
Disclosure: I was given two tickets to the Drury Lane production of “Billy Elliot” with no obligation. I wrote about it because I wanted to, and all opinions are mine. Photos are courtesy of Drury Lane.