Dec 142009
 

I thought I’d do a series for the magazine of my top 5 classic shows that I think everyone should see. I’m going to start with Billy Elliot and try to explain exactly why Billy Elliot (London) remains one of the best choices for theatre breaks.

Billy Elliot London

Billy Elliot London

Billy Elliot London

Billy Elliot the musical started in London in 2005 at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It was based on the 2000 film Billy Elliot with a book by Lee Hall (who wrote the original screen play) and music by Sir Elton John. The film was a hard act to follow. Everyone remembered Julie Walters as the ballet teacher and Gary Lewis as Billy’s coal mining father and it was tricky to see how Billy could ever become a musical. Despite any worries the show was an instant hit with both the public and the critics and it has remained so ever since.

The Story of Billy and of the Miners Strike

Billy Elliot is a young boy who develops a passion for ballet growing up in County Durham in the early 1980s at the time of the miners’ strike. It’s quite strange to see a time I vividly remember portrayed on the stage and they do play slightly with the chronology of events. You really don’t need to know the history of the miners strike to appreciate the show. Your emotions and sympathies are guided through the passage of the story and in some ways knowing too much about the real events of the time can get in the way.

It is interesting to note that two of the best loved musicals on in London at the moment both have their origins in Northern working class sensibilities (Billy and Blood Brothers). Both shows focus on the warmth and humour of the North but neither shies away from some fairly grim aspects. The musical show tells the human story of Billy and his family with great compassion and clarity. I’m not going to go into the plot in great depth here as there may be some people (from Mars?) who don’t already know the story. suffice it to say the story is moving and entertaining.

The Music

The music is stunning. Elton John was definitely on top form when he wrote this and it’s really hard to pick out one or two numbers to share with you. So I decided to go for this medley to give you a flavour of the show:

The Billys

The role of Billy Elliot is hugely demanding of young actors. Billy has to be between 9 and 13 years old, 5′ or less, a terrific dancer and have a beautiful unbroken voice. To find one boy like that would not be easy but the role is actually shared between at least 3 or 4 Billy Elliots. This allows the boys to work within the UK legislation regarding child actors. Whilst there are several children in West End shows at the moment few carry the weight of the show in the same way that the child who plays Billy must.

Typically the boys who have play Billy are aged around 12 and have usually been dancing for at least 3 years before auditioning for the show. Often they will have studied ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary dance, competed in several competitions before they eventually audition for Billy Elliot London. Auditions for the show go on continuously and successful applicants move to London live in Billy Elliot House. There they continue with their normal school studies in addition to working on their singing and dancing.

Hotels for Billy Elliot

Billy is not in the main area of the West End but in Victoria, near to the Apollo (Wicked). You can either decide you want to stay somewhere closer to the shops or look for a hotel that’s handy for the theatre. I’m quite fond of the area round Victoria so I’d probably opt for a hotel near the theatre if it was just overnight. There are lots of nice little places to eat, there’s St James’s Park if you fancy a walk, you are not far from the river and Tate Britain if you feel like some art. Actually the restaurant in Tate Britain is lovely for lunch, a little pricey but very pleasant! Victoria is also very convenient for public transport and at weekends buses provide a surprisingly good way of getting round the city. I’m not a huge fan of the tube and London buses do give a chance to see where you are going!

My first choice would be the 4* Crown Palace London St James. It’s a lovely hotel, usually offers a full English breakfast in with the price and is handy both for the theatre and for St James’s Park. It’s less that 1/4 of a mile from the theatre and offers a bit of surprisingly affordable luxury. Keep in mind that a more central 3* hotel could end up costing more per person and often does not include a substantial English breakfast.

Seats at Billy Elliot London

When you book with some agencies they will give you quite a wide range of seating options. It is often the case that you get what you pay for with these deals, lowest cost seats will be further away from the action. Having said that it would be very unusual for the theatre break package companies to offer tickets with a restricted view without telling you in advance. Other agencies offer a choice of top seats ( in the stalls or dress circle) or best available seats (stalls, dress circle, or upper circle). The upper circle is known as the grand circle in the Victoria Palace Theatre.

The Victoria Palace is an old theatre and my recommended seats are undoubtedly those in the middle of the stalls as they offer the most leg room, a good view and good value for money.

So there you go, a quick guide to Billy Elliot, London, an ever popular choice for theatre breaks. You can click through to read more about Billy Elliot London

  One Response to “Billy Elliot London”

  1. Ive seen the show a couple of weeks ago and I think that most of the actors listed here have changed, but Billy Elliot Musical was great…Im planning to see Blood Brothers and Ghost next;)

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