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Billy Elliot soars at Croswell Opera House (Review) June 12, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Landon 5

Landon Brimacombe takes flight with Aidan Ziegler-Hansen (as Billy and Older Billy) in Billy Elliot – photo courtesy Croswell Opera House.

Croswell Opera House has pulled another magic trick out of it’s current big hat of hits and created a production of Billy Elliot that truly soars (in Act II in more ways than one). Director Julianne Dolan has created an emotion-filled musical, and scenic designer Doug Miller has matched it with picture perfect sets. Jonathan Sills’ musical direction is super — and the entire cast and orchestra sound rich. Sarah Nowak makes it all move — and move it does, from start to finish.

You probably already know the story – young Billy Elliot stumbles upon dance and finds himself taking classes with a local teacher, hiding it from his tough coal-mining dad and family, who are on strike in 1984 England. When the secret is out, the drama ensues, as his teacher tries to get Billy to audition for the school of ballet in London, while his father struggles with what it all means.

There are two alternating Billy’s (Landon Brimacombe at my performance) and it is a challenging role that requires singing, acting, dancing, and a tremendous amount of energy as he is on stage almost the entire time. Landon’s “big moment” (flying during a sequence with Older Billy, played by UM’s Aidan Ziegler-Hansen) is exciting and emotional at the same time. What kid hasn’t dreamed about getting caught up so much is something that they love that they wish they could actually soar and fly to express their excitement. Here he does, and its thrilling.

There are terrific performances by rich-voiced Jared Hoffert as Billy’s father, Erin Satchell Yuen as empathic dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, Steven Kiss as tough older brother Tony, Jay Hillard as a hilarious Grandma, and funny George Bacarella as boxing instructor George. But my heart was won over by the absolute scene-stealing dynamo Gabe Omlor as Michael in a performance that is so self-assured it could be on any Broadway stage this very evening. Of course Michael is my favorite character in the musical, and the haunting final image on his bicycle, a larger than life boy trapped riding in a circle in a dying village with no way out watching Billy flee and pursue his dream, is heartbreaking.

The entire ensemble is excellent — from minor characters to all the dancing kids, cops, and miners – and they are all beautifully costumed by Pam Krage and well lit by Tiff Crutchfield.

Oh, and if you somehow missed the news today, Croswell Opera House received a 2.5 million dollar donation last night at their annual fundraiser Great Big Night. And that is Great Big Wonderful News for this beloved theater which will keep it soaring well into the future.

Highly Recommended.

Billy Elliot continues at the Croswell Opera House through June 26th. Tickets at croswell.org or 517-264-show. 129 E Maumee St, Adrian, MI 49221.

 

 

 

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“Billy Elliot” has Big Night at the 2009 Tonys June 8, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Theatre.
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As predicted in this blog a month ago (and most blogs about Broadway, lets be fair) Billy Elliot had a big night at the Tony awards last night, winning 10 awards, including Best Musical. The voters took pity on Next to Normal by awarding it Best Score, one of only two major awards that Billy was nominated for that it did not win (costumes was the other – going to the well-deserved Shrek).

08tony.billy.4802David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Photo NYT, 2009

The boys had a hard time articulating their thank you’s…what would you do if you were 14 in front of that size audience?…and rumor has it all of them will be gone from the show by the end of the year (little boys grow up and their voices change — two new Billies are already in rotation as of this past week in NYC).

Elton John, on the other hand, made a beautifully articulated thank you upon winning Best Musical and acknowledged the artistic team of Next to Normal (a not-so-veiled concession speech for best score).

I’ve blogged before about this brilliant show, so I won’t do so here again — just look down a few posts and you’ll find my thoughts on the show. But I did want to mention that while American audiences and critics were a bit more mixed on the show, the British media and audiences (the origin of this musical is on the West End, not Broadway) have readily appointed Billy Elliot as the finest musical ever written. I can’t really argue with them. I love musicals of all types, but there is something about Billy Elliot that speaks to every single child (and adult) who ever had a parent that told them “No” when they wanted to sing, or dance, or paint, or play an instrument. Told through dance, the story resonates with every single performer who has taken a step on a stage. The Tony Awards well-chosen “Angry Dance” last night was a good sample of emotion expressed through movement in the end of Act I curtain number.

Congratulations to everyone nominated for this year’s Tony’s and all those who weren’t. But my heart goes out to Billy…

For the Record: 2009 Tony Awards for Billy Elliot: Best Musical, Best Actor (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish), Best Director, Best Featured Actor (Michigan’s Gregory Jbara), Best Set Design, Best Book of a Musical, Best Lighting Design, Best Sound Design, Best Orchestrations, Best Choreography.