This has changed SO much since the UK tour - people who lived, die - and people who died have completely vanished. Relationships have been changed, and whole scenes and songs rewritten. The result is a much slicker, pacey and greatly improved musical.
It is of course the tale of Don Alejandro’s renegade son, Diego, who has to return home to save the pueblo from military control and adopts the mysterious persona of Zorro to do so. There are lots of magical disappearances and tricks, which are smoothly integrated into the action and very fun to watch. The show has a lot of energy - although possibly a little too much flamenco dancing.
There’s a lot of humour too - mainly targeted at Nick Cavaliere’s Sergeant Garcia , who Ithink is actually the star of the show. Sure Diego (Matt Rawle’s Understudy on the night I went), Inez (also the understudy) and Luisa (Emma Woods) are great too, but Garcia was awesome.
Definitely one of the better new musicals of 2008 - and much more fun/less intense than Imagine This
Also check out: Dirty Dancing, The Phantom of the Opera
I’ve been avoiding Billy Elliot since it opened - about three and a half years ago. There seems to be a distinct split between people who loved the movie (who also love the musical) and those who weren’t bothered by the movie, and are equally uninspired by the theatrical adaptation.
Sure, the kids are cute, there’s some good dancing and the juxtaposition of the ballet girls and miners/policemen is well executed. But the songs aren’t especially memorable and none of them would work outside of the context of show. The set didn’t work for me either. It looks expensive, but all too often there are backdrops or sections at the side which actually relate to a previous scene and shouldn’t still be visible. Oh - and talking of visibility, I saw most of the stage crew at various points in the show, which again shouldn’t happen.
The cast were enthusiastic, despite wandering accents - and I was particularly impressed by the boy playing Michael (Billy’s cross-dressing mate) who had excellent comic timing.
I really didn’t see anything special or magical about the show - but if you liked the movie it’s worth a visit.
Also check out: Billy Elliot the movie
The image of a rose growing from a strand of barbed wire caught my attention as soon as I saw the posters for this production. It’s actually a very symbolic representation of the show itself. There’s no well known songs or music, it’s not based on an established brand or on a movie or book, there’s no superstar actor or director to push the show into the limelight, it’s about the Holocaust and there’s a credit crunch - and yet despite all these inhibitors, it’s a beautifully put together musical and well worth seeing.
The set extends slightly into the auditorium, making you really feel engaged with the show. It adapts well to the different scenes in the production and combined with lighting, sets the scene and atmosphere beautifully.
The musical is set in a WWII Jewish ghetto in Poland, where a family are trying to keep people’s hope alive by performing plays. A very large chuck of the musical covers the performance of one such play, about Jews in the biblical times of Masada. The tale of the Jews in Masada mirrors that of those in Poland, and at the end the Polish Jews are faced with a moral dilemma.
Despite the depressing subject matter, there’s a LOT of humour within the musical - and some brilliant performances. The songs and music are more memorable than I’ve heard in a lot of new musicals, although none are true showstoppers.
Sadly, because so much time is spent in Masada, there’s not really much opportunity to get to know the characters, and so you don’t care as much about them as you’d like to. It’s a shame as there are some great performances in there, particularly from Peter Polycarpou (Daniel) and Michael Matus (Pompey).
Overall, a great new musical, beautifully done, but could benefit from some rewriting to redress the balance between the plays.
Also check out: The Secret Garden, Far Pavillions, Parade