We'd go dancing
I would be hard pressed to declare myself as any expert on British musicals. Sure, I have seen Annie and Oliver many times (in the 80s), even recently saw Mary Poppins (well, in 2005). But in that self admittedly far from extensive repertoire, none come close to matching the enjoyment I got from going to Billy Elliot last week.
I must admit I was initially apprehensive of the prospect. Why would I want to schlep out on the Death, sorry I mean District line to Victoria to watch young boys dance around, surrounded by a corp of singing and dancing middle aged men dressed as miners.
Turning small scale movies into big musicals is treacherous business...think the Full Monty. It bombed because it lost all its gritty truth when musicalised (if that is not a word, it is now).
It is the opposite in Billy Elliott. The musical brings out the realness of the gritty political context of the time. There are some catchy one liners and a song 'Merry Christmas Margaret Thatcher' a song that celebrates Christmas Day as 'one day closer to her death' - a great example of dark British humour.
Billy's 'friend' called Michael in the play is infectiously supurb. Everything about him celebrates the cuteness of showbiz and Michael's character resembles a male Judy Garland type.
And if all that weren't good enough, then comes along Billy's Grandma's song. Elton John's score is supurb throughout, by the way. Grandma sings an ode to her late husband that I want played at my funeral. Okay not word for word, or even sentiment for sentiment. But at the very least the gist of the gest.
If I'd only known then what I know now
I'd've given them all the finger
And gone dancing, and not give a shit
and spin around and reel and love each bit
And I'd dance alone and enjoy it
And I'd be me for an entire life.
Instead of somebody's wife
and I never would be sober.
And that was it. I was had (in a Jerry Maguire-esqe 'you had me' moment). I was convinced that this musical was really and truly uniquely appreciated by me. Everything - the romance, the regret, the dancing, the drinking. Me, Me, Me!
This was more my song than Sinatra's My Song. Which incidentally random polls have shown more people truly believe IS a unique tribute to their life. So Carly Simon was spot on about our baseline levels of vanity. We really do think this song is about us.
When musicals are great, they make us feel great. And in this day and age there is no price to pay for that. Well, almost...
Liz's best price seat tip:
Best to ring the Victoria Palace Theatre direct for tickets 0207 834 1317.
Request middle section, Row A or Row B of the Grand Circle. Seats are cheaper at £25 because they are a restricted view. But this is simply a railing bar that you can easily see above or below. Bargain for a top West End show.
But if price is not an issue than I would opt for the Stalls. The minor disadvantage to the Grand Circle is you see the special effects as they happen, so they lose a bit of impact.
As of today, they had no Row A or B Grand Circle for this week, but yes for next.