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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May 2005, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Press views: Billy Elliot
Sir Elton John, Hugh Grant and Graham Norton were among the stars who attended Thursday's celebrity opening of West End musical Billy Elliot.

But the press had already given an overwhelmingly positive response to the 5m stage version of the 2000 British film.


Turning small-scale movies into big musicals is a treacherous business. But Billy Elliot succeeds brilliantly because Elton John's music and Peter Darling's choreography enhance Lee Hall's cinematic concept.

Liam Mower and cast in Billy Elliot
Liam Mower (centre) is one of three boys playing the lead role
Stephen Daldry's production is a model of fluidity and intelligence. He constantly reminds us that the special power of the musical is that it can express a lyrical idea through physical action.

Liam Mower, one of three young actors sharing the role of Billy, performs not just with heroic dedication but also a strange seriousness that is affecting.

But the show's success rests on its careful balance between Billy and the surrounding community. The musical, even more than the film, counterpoints Billy's personal triumph with the community's decline.


There are all kinds of problems to be surmounted in adapting Billy Elliot into a stage musical.

But Stephen Daldry's exhilarating production has some brilliant solutions up its fluffy pink tutu.

The show is often terribly funny. Ryan Longbottom, who plays Michael, Billy's cross-dressing gay friend, is the kind of kid who would have Ethel Merman cowering under the furniture.

Before you can say Danny La Rue, he has Billy in a dress and tap-dancing with a group of fantasy frocks in Daldry's warm, generous and deeply talented production.


This is not a time to beat around the bush. Billy Elliot strikes me as the greatest British musical I have ever seen.

Liam Mower and Joe Caffrey in Billy Elliot
Joe Caffrey (right) plays Billy's brother Tony in the show
There is a rawness, a warm humour and a sheer humanity here that is worlds removed from the soulless slickness of most musicals.

The emotion always seems real and spontaneous, rather than cunningly manipulated to pull at the heartstrings.

The whole cast is blessed with a freshness and sincerity I have rarely seen equalled, and one leaves this triumphant production in a mist of tears and joy.


Stephen Daldry and Lee Hall have concocted a piece that's tougher, bolder and, as my tear-ducts can attest, more moving than its celluloid precursor.

Liam Mower was the boy chosen to play Billy last night and he proved impressively grave and dignified as an actor and gloriously skilful as a dancer

The musical as a whole is a celebration of dance: its lure, its excitement, its wonder, its surprises.

If there is a disappointment it is Elton John's music, which begins promisingly but never seems either tuneful or original.


But for its dismally trite, Socialist Worker angle on the miners' strike, Billy Elliot the Musical would stand tall as a production of the most searing quality.

Liam Mower and Ryan Longbottom in Billy Elliot (photo by David Scheinmann)
Ryan Longbottom (right) plays Billy's friend Michael
Even with this significant flaw this is a glorious show. It's a weepie, funny spectacle married to a super score by Sir Elton John.

Liam Mower will surely become the biggest child star since Mark Lester played Oliver Twist.

But the greatest success, the thing that lifts your soul and makes you cry and sends you home high with hope, is the belief that art us one of the great liberating forces available to man.

Tough schedule delays Elliot show
17 Mar 05 |  Entertainment
Dancing in Billy Elliot's footsteps
05 Oct 04 |  Entertainment
Billy Elliot stage stars unveiled
05 Oct 04 |  Entertainment

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