Review: Billy Elliot, Curve

This marvellous revival of Billy Elliot the Musical proves that Nikolai Foster and his Curve Theatre really are producing some of the UK’s finest musical theatre

“The stars look down and know the past”

Finally made it to Leicester for a belated trip to Billy Elliot the Musical as too many people had strongly recommended that I go. The Curve has been steadily building a reputation for mounting some sensational revivals and Nikolai Foster’s production here is no exception, revitalising the show for the first time since it departed the Victoria Palace in 2016 to make room for refurbishments and Hamilton.

And as is often the case with great art, it finds timelessness through the specificity of its message, shining through all the more after its absence from our theatres. Set in the growing acrimony of the mid-1980s miners’ strike, notions of workers’ rights and the potential of industrial action loom large both onstage and off in the rumbling subplot of Lee Hall’s book, as young Billy chases his dream of becoming a dancer.   

In ‘The Letter’, the show already has one of the most reliably tear-jerking moments in all of musical theatre but something about this whole production had me deep in my feelings. If I wasn’t goosebumping (the soul-soaring ‘The Stars Look Down’), I was wiping away a tear or three. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you where Foster has made his cuts but they work like a dream, in ensuring that the show feels so emotionally real.

Sally Ann Triplett is reliably fantastic as the iconic Mrs Wilkinson, Joe Caffrey a deeply moving presence as Billy’s dad and Jessica Daley almost unbearably moving as his ma. But it’s all about the kids – I saw Jaden Shentall-Lee’s Billy and Prem Masani’s Michael, both so incredibly good (and all the more so when you consider there’s four teams of young lead performers). Michael Taylor’s deceptively simple set design, George Dyer’s musical direction, Lucy Hind’s choreography, so much praise needed for an exceptionally affecting production.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Marc Brenner
Billy Elliot is booking at Curve Leicester until 20th August

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