Courage, Emotion And Humor Dances Through Cape Rep's 'Billy Elliot'

By: Amy Tagliaferri

Topics: Local Theater

Caitlin Mills and Matthew Dean in "Billy Elliot, The Musical." BOB TUCKER/FOCALPOINT STUDIO PHOTO

That first time you see your child shine it takes your breath away. It’s also the time you realize that this human being you brought into the world is a person, a person who can achieve incredible things.

Billy Elliot’s father is drowning; drowning in grief over his wife’s death and drowning in worry because of the imminent coal miners’ strike. Jackie Elliot is trying so hard to give his sons, Tony and Billy, a normal life in a very stressful time. In fact the entire mining town in northern England is fighting a losing battle to keep the everyday routines with everything they know and love on the cusp of disaster.

So when Billy chooses ballet over boxing, Jackie explodes. He forbids him to dance, that is until he actually sees his son dance. It’s a transformative moment in “Billy Elliot, The Musical,” a moment where beauty makes the world and its troubles cease for a moment. The moral of the story is to follow your dreams, but Lee Hall (book and lyrics) and Elton John (music) dug down and found another message. Gifted people are all around us, and allowing them to shine makes us feel better. They make the world a better place for all of us.

The Cape Rep Theatre, ace director Maura Hanlon and a stellar cast have made our summer better with this production. Matthew Dean is phenomenal in the lead role. An accomplished actor and dancer at the age of 13, Dean has already toured in this role across the country. He’s able to convey Billy’s early fascination with ballet, and then that light bulb moment when he realizes that he must dance. It’s a stunning performance. Burke Brickner is downright delightful as Billy’s best friend Michael. “Expressing Yourself” is a standout number in the show. Jackie Elliot is a complex role filled with both bravado and compassion that Tom Andrews explores and conquers. Nick Nudler as the passionate Tony Elliot, with George (Charles Bennison), Big Davey (Garrett Almeida, and Lesley (Lindsay Erin Agnes) accurately portray the anguish and frustration of the miners in both song (“The Stars Look Down”) and dialogue. McNeely Myers is a rascally Grandma, Caitlin Mills pulls at your heart strings as Billy’s Mum (“The Letter”) and Alison Weller’s portrayal of Mrs. Wilkinson with a combination of bluster and thoughtfulness is spot-on. Christopher Phillips (older Billy), dances brilliantly as a prophetic vision of what Billy will become, and Stephen Rourke amazingly transforms easily from Mr. Braithwaite, the cagey old piano player, to “Posh Dad.” Both my companion and I were charmed by the exuberant Julien Lajoie as the “Small Boy,” and the precociousness of Nell Hamilton as Debbie Wilkinson (who delivers one of the show’s funniest lines).

The ensemble (Andrew Cranin, Morgan Dexter, Justin West, Macklin Devine and many of the aforementioned) along with the ballet girls (Larkin Fox, Alyssa Freeman, Madison Mayer, Eden Milczanowski and Grace Otah) sing joyously and inspirationally, with powerful voices and in wonderful harmony. To the audience’s delight, the ballet girls also double as the stage crew giggling their way as they move furniture and set partitions. Credit the magnificent song and dance numbers that these actors perform to musical director/band conductor Peter Hodgson, choreographer Derek Roland (assisted by Phillips) and band members Meyer Brown (bass), Ryan Sander (drums) and Ben Colgan (keyboard). Christopher Bowser’s set design is inventive and detailed and Susan Nicholson’s lighting design dramatically enhances it with stage manager Kate Gulden at the helm in the booth.

Get your tickets today for Cape Rep’s “Billy Elliot, The Musical,” I see a lot of sold out performances in their future. The show is almost two and half hours long with a 15-minute intermission. There is colorful language in the show, but the message is important for your teen so parents you need to make a judgment call on this. What an emotional, funny, sad, stirring, courageous show!