Billy Elliot The Musical
Elton’s Account of the Day He First Encountered Billy Elliot:
“It’s not very often you can say a film changes your life. I had no idea what I was walking into when I accepted an invitation [in 2000] to the premiere of Billy Elliot at the Cannes Film Festival. I was aware of the formidable creative reputation of the film’s director Stephen Daldry but everything else about Billy Elliot was a complete mystery to me.”
Elton and the three original Billy Elliots (l-r: James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower) in London on opening night at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
“My response to the film was profound. The story of young Billy, a gifted working class boy with artistic ambitions seemingly beyond his reach, had so many parallels to my own childhood. Like Billy, the opportunity to express myself artistically was a passport to a better, more fulfilling life. As a child, I dreamt of a career in music, escaping into my treasured record collection for inspiration and hope. It was the unfailing support of my mother and grandmother that helped me achieve my ambitions. With their encouragement and a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, I started building a foundation that has allowed me to rejoice in a musical career that has exceeded my wildest dreams. To see Billy literally dance his way out of the bleak and cruel environment created by the British mining industry’s demise was inspirational. To see Billy’s family rally behind his artistic gift moved me to tears. By the screening’s end, the audience response was overwhelming. As Jamie Bell took a glorious victory lap around the cinema, I had to be helped up the aisle, sobbing. The film had really got under my skin.”
At the after-screening party someone suggested that Billy would make the most amazing stage musical. Several years later Working Title and Old Vic Productions approached Elton about writing the music. He was immediately interested, insisting that Lee Hall, the film’s writer, should write the lyrics for the musical. Lee Hall, who was, “thrilled but also incredibly nervous” to be writing with Elton, found that they had, “an immediate rapport starting with the first song [which] just kept going till the end.” He soon found that Elton, “managed to tap into all sorts of traditions of songs that had huge resonances with the working class culture I was writing about. Elton had understood that tradition and had thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of us to create a musical that was truly British, that would be rough, lyrical, funny, and moving in equal measure.”
Elton and the cast of Billy Elliot The Musical at the opening night in Sydney, Australia. Left to right Rhys Kosakowski, Nick Twiney, Elton, Lochlan Denholm, Rarmian Newton, David Furnish.
Elton and Lee Hall wrote the Billy Elliot songs in the same way that Elton writes with Bernie Taupin — the lyrics always come first. Elton said “Lee’s entire libretto was inspirational. The melodies flowed right out of me. Perhaps the words that touched me most are those in Electricity… When Billy is asked at The Royal Ballet School to explain how he feels when he dances, his response comes very close to summing it up for me…I am extraordinarily proud of what Lee and I have created for the stage musical of Billy Elliot. The show demonstrates everything I love about the power of art. It can inspire you. It can transform lives. Art can make you look at life in a way you never have before. And it can take you places well beyond your wildest dreams.”
The songs in Billy Elliot the Musical, written by Lee Hall and Elton John are:
- The Stars Look Down
- We’d Go Dancing
- Expressing Yourself
- Dear Billy (Mam’s Letter)
- Born To Boogie
- Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
- Deep Into The Ground
- He Could Be A Star
- Once We Were Kings
- Dear Billy (Billy’s Reply)
Background to the Production
Billy Elliot the Musical is the joyous celebration of one boy’s journey to make his dreams come true. The story is set in a small English town, against the backdrop of the 1984-85 miners’ strike, one of the bitterest and most divisive conflicts in twentieth-century English social history. It follows Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, discovering a passion that takes him by surprise, and takes his whole family on an incredibly uplifting adventure.
The original production of Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre was presented by Working Title and Old Vic Productions in Association with Tiger Aspect. It was produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn and Sally Greene, with Angela Morrison and David Furnish as Executive Producers. The production featured set design by Ian MacNeil, costume design by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations were by Martin Koch, choreography by Peter Darling and the Director was Stephen Daldry. Book and lyrics are by Lee Hall and the music is by Elton John.
Billy Elliot Around the World
Billy Elliot The Musical at the opening night in Sydney, Australia, December 18, 2007, Capitol Theatre, with Elton in tutu skirt with the entire cast.
The musical is based on the beloved 2000 film, which itself achieved three Academy Award nominations and three BAFTA awards. The stage production opened at London’s Victoria Palace in May 2005, to unanimous critical acclaim. The Mail on Sunday wrote, “Truly electrifying — this heart-stopping show is a must-see,” The Sunday Express raved, “Pure magic,” and The Daily Telegraph proclaimed it simply, “The greatest British musical I have ever seen.” The London production went on to win nine awards for Best Musical, including the Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.
Billy Elliot the Musical closed in London on 9 April 2016, after 4,600 performances, in front of a packed house with guests including past and present Billy Elliots, original cast members and members of the show’s creative team. Over the eleven year run in the West End, the Victoria Palace Theatre was home to 531 young performers including 42 Billys, 26 Michaels, 22 Debbies and 350 ballet girls. Actors ranging from ages 6 to 84 have tread the boards since the musical’s world premiere in March 2005. The first ever UK & Ireland tour – currently booking to May 2017 – opened in February at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and continues visiting Sunderland, Bradford, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Southampton and Birmingham.
Elton joins the London Billy Elliots (l-r: Euan Garrett, Nat Sweeney, Thomas Hazelby, and Brodie Donougher) for a curtain call at the final performance at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 9 April 2016.
Billy Elliot the Musical opened to great acclaim in December 2007, at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, Australia. The Australian wrote, “Billy Elliot should come with a warning: Abandon cynicism all ye who enter. Open your heart; get out the tissues and surrender.” The Sydney Morning Herald raved, “Joyously entertaining, Billy Elliot bursts into starry-eyed showbiz magic … A rapturous pinnacle of self-expression and fulfillment.” The Sunday Telegraph called it, “Bloody brilliant! Funny, exuberantly rude and heartbreakingly moving.” The production transferred to Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre on December 31, 2008, to yet more success. The Australian production was honoured with 12 theatre awards, including Best Musical (Helpmann Awards, Sydney, and Green Room Awards, Melbourne).
The next production opened on November 13, 2008, on Broadway, New York, US, at the Imperial Theatre. It was staggeringly successful, and in 2009 was the winner of ten Tony Awards including: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Lee Hall), Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish), Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Gregory Jbara), Best Direction of a Musical (Stephen Daldry), Best Choreography (Peter Darling), Best Orchestrations (Martin Koch), Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Ian MacNeil), Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Rick Fisher) and Best Sound Design of a Musical (Paul Arditti). The Broadway production of Billy Elliot the Musical was also the recipient of a total of 35 awards including being named Best Musical by the New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle.
Since its triumphant New York debut, Billy Elliot the Musical has been staged in Chicago, Toronto, Seoul, the Netherlands and São Paulo, Brazil where the North American touring production finished its spectacular run. In 2017 the first Japanese language production will open at the Akasaka ACT Theater in Tokyo and a further Korean production will open at the D-Cube Arts Centre in Seoul. Additional international productions are also being planned. The musical has won more than 80 theatre awards and has been seen by nearly 5.4 million people in London, while globally it has been seen by almost 11 million.top