“Billy Elliot’ at Hippodrome Theatre by Amanda Gunther

Baltimore is being electrified for two weeks only as Broadway Across America in conjunction with Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Working Title Films, Old Vic Productions, and NETworks Presentations LLC brings the multi-Tony Award- winning musical Billy Elliot to the stage! The dazzling sensation of a young boy growing up in a miner’s town, desperate and destined to pursue his dream of becoming a dancer is one hit you won’t want to miss for the holiday season. The touring production features Direction by Justin Martin and Choreography by Kathryn Dunn; creating one sensational spectacular show. It makes the perfect holiday present for any performing artist — young or old — in your family this year.

Janet Dickinson (Mrs. Wilkinson) and cast of “Billy Elliot the Musical” Photo by Doug Blemker.
Choreographer Kathryn Dunn may be the most important production designer on the team for this tour. As the show is based largely around dancing the routines become that much more important. Dunn delivers with sheer intensity in each and every routine, be it solo numbers performed by Billy or during the larger ensemble numbers; everything is marked with precision and perfect synchronization; showcasing a multitude of different styles, all wrangled together in unique hybrid fusions that combine some of the most stellar dance moves seen on the stage.Dunn’s solo dance work is easily reflected and appreciated in several moments where the show’s title character is exploring his ability to dance. One of the most profound scenes featuring this unique style of exploratory dance comes in-between scenes and not set to any particular music early on; the young actor playing Billy is dancing alone on the stage, just a few moves to see what he can do — and the lighting is set in such a way that two perfect silhouettes of the dancer are cast against the back wall, creating an amazing sight as he moves his arms and legs with a sense of new discovery.

The ensemble work is far superior to just about anything I’ve seen lately; Dunn’s magic easily flowing through the large group as they dance their hearts out in group numbers like “Company Celebration” and “Solidarity.” Being the longest number in the show, stretching over a period of time and various scenes, “Solidarity” is one of the most complex ensemble dance routines executed as it involves deeply intricate lines of dancing with characters floating in-between them, shifting costumes while singing and incorporating the ballet students in the throng of things. A stunning and severely intense number; this song drives the first act and really reaches out and grabs hold of the audience’s attention.

Right next to the dancing is the incredible performing; by way of singing and acting, from each and every performer present. The ensemble presents strong proud voices in numbers like “The Stars Look Down” and “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher,” two completely opposite songs in regards to emotion and tone yet both are executed with a sturdy passion that really allows voice the lyrics of the song to be heard with meaning and feeling.

Grandma (Patti Perkins) is a rather entertaining character. A bit off her rocker while still being cleverly present, Perkins provides poignant comic relieve at key moments to keep things from seeming too serious, and she gives Billy a run for his money. Perkins has a weathered attitude while keeping her composure over reminiscing and does a bang-up job of balancing fond nostalgia and crackpot humor in her song “We’d Go Dancing.”

-Noah Parets (Billy) in ‘Billy Elliot the Musical.’ Photo by Doug Blemker.

Dad (Rich Herbert) is a tough nut to crack as he’s deeply tucked away in his own lost world of striking miners and the loss of his wife. But Herbert brings a great deal of emotional depth to the character, sinking his teeth into the role in a dynamic manner, never allowing those tumultuous emotions to just play out at one level. His interactions with Billy are some of the most compelling scenes in the production and his gradual change and shift in perception is enough to bring you to warm heart-felt tears.

Keep your eye out for show stealing Michael (at this performance — Jake Kitchin) who has more than just a flare for the dramatic. With a spastic enthusiasm over just being himself, Kitchin steals the show in “Express Yourself” singing, dancing, and rocking that dress like a true Broadway Diva. The kid has spunk and gumption and is a real crowd pleaser. Kitchin has tender moments shared with the title character as well, but is never more than a breath away from the extroverted ball of fiery energy, just one step away from bursting into song and dance at any moment.

The other little scene stealer isn’t so little and comes in the form of a fully grown adult, Mr. Braithwaite (Patrick Wetzel). While mostly silent, Wetzel’s character is background comic entertainment, until he shows up with Mrs. Wilkinson and starts busting out dance moves in “Born to Boogie.” His phenomenal tap ability and range of movement, from leaps to splits, will just have your jaw dropping.

And then there’s Mrs. Wilkinson (Janet Dickinson). A rough around the edges sort of woman who really knows exactly what she’s doing when it comes to ballet, the heartfelt character is a well of deep emotions restrained and then released at exactly the right moments. Dickinson brings a raw honesty to the character; giving her a life-like portrayal that hardly feels as if she’s acting at all. She sings with tantamount perfection, belting out in “Shine” and “Born To Boogie” where she also showcases her many talented and complex dancing abilities. Her crass double talking nature is fitting for the comic elements of the production but when she settles down into the more serious moments of the character it is truly touching.

Billy Elliot (at this performance — Noah Parets) is literally in more ways than one the star of the show. His fierce passion for dancing is shown every step of the way. Parets is a precocious little actor but a phenomenally talented performer. During his “Angry Dance” he becomes a raging inferno of infuriating agony, literally expressing every angry emotion within him through his explosive dance. This is tempered later by his dance during “Electricity” which is both stunning and accompanied by his beautiful melodious singing solo. Parets simply soars to new heights, so much so that he practically has the audience leaping out of the chair with him when he dances, spins, and even flies with his dream self (Noah Long) late in act two. An out of this world performance given by the young performer; certainly something not to be missed.

So if you feel the need to express yourself, or just know that you too were born to boogie, then get yourself down to see Billy Elliot before he takes off to the royal ballet school and is gone for good.

The cast of “Billy Elliot the Musical.” Photo by Kyle Froman.

Running Time: Approximately three hours with one intermission.

Billy Elliot plays through December 30, 2012 at The Hippodrome Theatre as part of the Hippodrome Broadway Series. The Hippodrome is located at 12 N. Eutaw Street in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 547-7328, or purchase them online.

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Amanda Gunther
Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.


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