Is it fact or fiction? With Billy Elliot The Musical, you get a bit of both. The heartwarming show is based on a popular film from 2000 of the same name; the film was written by Lee Hall and directed by the inventive theater director Stephen Daldry. It was a commercial and critical success, and a winner of various awards worldwide.The original screenplay was inspired by A.J. Cronin’s novel, The Stars Look Down and the 1939 film adaptation of that story. The musical’s opening in the London production honors Cronin’s story.
According to critics and audiences, Billy Elliot The Musical is both buoyant and touching. Billy Elliot tells the story of a young boy in England during the 1980s, being raised by a single, poor father. While all his peers are interested in boxing, Billy discovers that he has a talent for dance. Billy begins to pursue his dream much to the disgust of his working-class family in County Durham. Billy’s struggle to get accepted into an exclusive dance academy comes in the face of great adversity. The Miners’ strike that his social class and family participates in during the same time period sets the backdrop for Billy’s journey of self-expression and growth. Though referring to an actual Miners’ Strike in 1984, the story of Billy Elliot is not based on a true story. As director Stephen Daldry said in an interview with The Observer, “People always used to ask me about Billy Elliot – is it a true story? No. We made it up.”
Whether you consider the musical fact or fiction, everyone agrees the show is a hit. Billy Elliot continues to be a major draw in London’s West End since opening in 2005. The production was nominated for 9 Laurence Olivier Awards, winning four, and breaking box-office records. The musical continues to sell out on a nightly basis. The film’s original director, writer, and choreographer collaborated on the new show as well. In creating the musical, Elton John joined the team to help create a brilliant score.
Broadway will get its own audience with Billy Elliot when the show joins the line of Broadway musicals on October 1, 2008. With a rotating cast of three young Billy Elliots (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish) ticket sales for the new Broadway production have been impressive. Expectations for the critical success of the production are high. The century old British invasion of Broadway continues. That’s a fact.