What to see this spring

Katherine checks out 'Billy Elliot The Musical'
25 October, 2016

Before I start, let's just get this out of the way - I have been asked to pen my thoughts on Billy Elliot The Musical by the Auckland Theatre Company but I'm biased. I have always loved musicals, and I have always loved watching really talented kids sing and perform. It sounds strange but I am constantly in awe of 10 year olds with dancing or singing talent. The kid could be just an okay singer but I'm consistently impressed, just by their age. (I blame this obsession on my lack of success as a child tap dancer and inability to sing, it's like I'm one of those mothers living vicariously through their children - except the children aren't mine).

So yeah, ask me to review a musical where the lead is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting-with-an-Irish-accent 12 year old boy and a large proportion of the remaining characters are all-singing, all-dancing under 15 year olds and I'm bound to like it. 

Billy Elliot The Musical is (in case you didn't know) an international, award-winning show based on the hit film, and features words and lyrics by Lee Hall, and music by the legendary Elton John. It is performed by the Auckland Theatre Company and is the first large scale production to be performed at Auckland Theatre Company's brand new ASB Waterfront Theatre - a bespoke performing arts facility in downtown Wynyard Quarter. The theatre is the first created for Auckland Theatre Company and it is very special. For starters, it houses a bar, café and gallery space alongside the state-of-the-art, 668-seat theatre. There's a balcony level and sure, over 500 people can fit in there but there's an intimacy about the space that I appreciate - I would love to see a small concert in there, I feel like that would be a fantastic experience. It's almost like a baby version of the Civic, you get the same sort of grand feel and warmth in the room.

But onto the musical itself. The kids are bloody brilliant. There's one little guy at the start who I'm sure must only be around 5 years old, what a trooper, absolutely adorable. He alone is worth the visit. The night I went, Billy Elliot was played by 12-year old Wellingtonian, Jaxson Cook who was very, very good. It's impressive when an adult can remember several songs, dances (ballet, and tap) and lines (all in Irish accent) over a 2.5 hour period, let alone a 12 year old. In fact, in the intermission I overheard at least two groups of people say how the child performers almost outshone the adult ones. In one of the uplifting parts near the end, I looked over and a grown man in a seat nearby was crying. If that doesn't tell you all you need to know, I don't know what will. Overall, a really cool performance, a must for anyone who loves the film. 

Special mention must be made to the specially commissioned light artwork inside the theatre, by New York's Leo Villareal. It is called 'Light Matrix' and is made up of 8400 LED lights. Check it out.