Billy Eliott – Victoria Palace Theatre, London

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Billy Elliot The Musical

After 11 wonderful years at the Victoria Palace theatre, Billy Elliot The Musical bowed out in spectacular style, on the last night of the show. It was by far one of the most emotionally charged and special performances the West End has seen for a very long time!

This was my ninth time seeing the production since it originally opened back in 2005. Each time I have seen the show I am amazed at the talent, hard work and sheer dedication that everybody involved in this production puts into it. It has continued to sell out night after night and it will, for many people, including myself,  be sad to a show with such impact and a gritty storyline, to say farewell to the West End.

Billy Elliot The Musical is an inspirational story set in a mining community in County Durham during the mining strike in 1984/1985. The then heavy handed Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher took on the miners union and subsequently won, this having disastrous effects on the miners. Billy’s father, Jackie, played by Deka Walmsley and brother are miners who are called-out on strike. Both Billy and his father are still grieving over the loss of their mother/wife, and his grandmother needing constant attention.

The story starts as Billy attends boxing lessons in the local community hall but becomes distracted by Mrs Wilkinson (Ruthie Henshall) and her ballet class. He soon becomes involved in the class after some initial hesitation, and it is very clear to Mrs Wilkinson Billy is a very talented young boy, to whom she think she could help. Billy shines throughout his ballet classes and he is entered into the audition for The Royal Ballet School by Mrs Wilkinson. However, his father finds out Billy hasn’t been going to his boxing lessons for some time and has instead been spending his time taking part in ballet.

We see Billy’s first audition not go according to plan. However just as he and his dad are about to leave Billy is asked, “Can I just ask you Billy, what does it feel like when you’re dancing?”. We see the Billy Elliot come to life, telling us how he feels when he is dancing – like ‘Electricity’.

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This special, once in a lifetime performance was a huge treat for the audience, many of whom had a connection to the show. It was announced at the start by Director, Stephen Daldry that all four current Billy Elliot’s would take part in ‘Tag Team Billy’ meaning the four boys would be on stage, swapping over when they played the part. Although at times they were all on stage, providing us with lots of laughter and tears!

One moment that had me rushing for a tissue to dab my eyes was Ruthie saying goodbye to Billy as he starts his new life at the ballet school. Ruthie was very emotional by this point and it was clear she had such a bond with these boys and that she really loved this show after playing her part for the last two years. It even become funny when she says to Billy “Now piss off before I start to cry”.

It was announced that the band from Easington, where the story is set, would be playing when the miners returned to the pit. As soon as they started I was crying and couldn’t stop! A heartfelt rendition of ‘Abide with Me’ was a very touching moment and the lots of sniffles could be heard in the audience.

The show ended with Billy saying goodbye to Michael and walking up the aisle of the auditorium to the hugest of applause and the second standing ovation of the evening!

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The curtain rose after a few moments to see Sir Elton John on stage, who had written the music for the show, to many cheers and people dabbing their eyes after this emotional and moving evening – a simply fantastic show!

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Whilst Billy has now left the West End it is now on tour, further details can be found via http://billyelliotthemusical.com – make sure you see this, without a doubt!

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