Billy Elliot at the Orpheum Theatre Delivers the Brassy Broadway Goods

Categories: Review, Theater
Joan Marcus
J.P. Viernes, as Billy Elliot, does things we can't.
Billy Elliot

Through September 17 at Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market (at Hyde), S.F. Tickets are $35-$200; visit

When I first saw the film version of Billy Elliot back in 2000, I found it a bit treacly and unconvincing. I also found it irresistible. I've seen the movie many times since, and each time I'm aware of the same shortcomings -- but I keep watching anyway.

Set during the U.K. miners' strike of 1984 and 1985, Billy Elliot tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who, despite the resistance of his macho father, escapes the bleakness of day-to-day life through ballet lessons. Much uplift ensues. So much uplift, in fact, that Elton John saw fit to make the thing into a musical. His adaptation, with book and lyrics by Lee Hall, premiered in London's West End in 2005 and on Broadway in 2008.

The show has been a smash. And after seeing the touring production playing at the Orpheum through mid-September, you'll probably understand why.

The musical shares many of the film's faults -- in particular, a weakness for unmotivated changes of heart. (The character of Billy's father, played here with great sensitivity by Rich Hebert, is the worst offender along these lines.) But if you're a fan of musicals, you're probably apt to forgive a bit of sentimental excess here and there, since the whole idea of spontaneous song-and-dance tends to undermine any attempt at harsh realism.

This is a joyous production, and much of the joy derives from Peter Darling's stunning choreography. The cast is solid, too, with an especially memorable turn from Broadway legend Faith Prince as Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy's chain-smoking ballet coach. Granted, the show's second half doesn't quite deliver on the promise of the first; the narrative momentum simply doesn't hold up.

But at its best, Billy Elliot gives us the brassy Broadway goods: it's the rare musical that manages to convey the pure thrill of dance.

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Location Info



Orpheum Theatre

1192 Market, San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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Michael Grogan
Michael Grogan

Billy Elliot The Musical is a complex show that I learned to appreciate after I viewed it several times. I can understand that the reviewer lost the narrative momentum in the second half, because the accent and the sound quality makes it easy to miss much of the dialog. With my second viewing, I found the narrative to be quite strong throughout. Definitely a play with music with a strong story to tell. In my opinion, I agree with the New York Post. " The Best Show That You Will Ever See.". .

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