Musical hit “Billy Elliot” gets first class treatment on PBS Great Performances

Billy Elliot the Musical will have stunning TV debut Oct. 23, 2015 on PBS
by Larry Murray

Based on the popular 2000 film, Billy Elliot the Musical took the West End and Broadway by storm, and won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical. Featuring a rousing score by Sir Elton John, Billy Elliot takes place during North East England’s contentious mining strike of 1984, and tells the inspirational story of a young boy’s journey from the boxing ring to the ballet barre, where his life-changing passion for dance transforms his family along with his entire mining town community. Now seen by over 10 million people worldwide, Billy Elliot comes to Great Performances in a special tenth anniversary production from London’s West End. I was fortunate to be able to preview this program and it simply spectacular, every bit as mesmerizing as the live performance I saw on Broadway, though this is the London West End version.

Still playing in London’s West End comes to the PBS Great Performances sries Friday, October 23 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.) The acclaimed musical airs as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival. The Elton John and Lee Hall’s adaptation of the acclaimed 2000 film, written by Hall and directed by Stephen Daldry, won multiple awards on both sides of the Atlantic, including 10 Tony Awards.

Recorded at the show’s West End home at the Victoria Palace Theatre, the show has been dazzling audiences in London since it opened in 2005, and has gone on to captivate audiences across five continents, winning more than 80 theater awards globally including 10 Tony Awards.

The cast is led by West End and Broadway star Ruthie Henshall in the role of Billy’s dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, Deka Walmsley who plays Billy’s dad Jackie, Ann Emery in the role of Grandma and Chris Grahamson in the role of Billy’s elder brother Tony. Elliott Hanna (11) plays the role of Billy Elliot, Zach Atkinson (13) the role of Michael and Demi Lee (11) the role of Debbie.

Billy Elliot the Musical Live features Liam Mower, who returns to the show in the role of Older Billy for the broadcast. Mower was the first boy ever to play the role of Billy Elliot on stage in 2005. In addition, 25 current and former Billy Elliots unite on stage in a specially choreographed mash-up finale.

Set in a mining town in the north of England against the background of the 1984-85 miners’ strike, “Billy Elliot” is the inspirational story of a young boy’s struggle against the odds to make his dream come true. Billy stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.

Here’s the song list, most of which also include dancing:

• “The Stars Look Down” – Company
• “Shine” – Ballet Girls, Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy & Mr. Braithwaite
• “Grandma’s Song” – Grandma
• “Solidarity” – Ballet Girls, Billy, Mrs. Wilkinson, Miners & Police
• “Expressing Yourself” – Billy, Michael, and Ensemble
• “The Letter” – Mrs. Wilkinson, Mum and Billy
• “Born to Boogie” – Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy, and Mr. Braithwaite
• “Angry Dance” – Billy & Male Ensemble
• “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” – Tony and Partiers
• “Deep Into the Ground” – Dad
• “Swan Lake” – Billy and Billy Older Self
• “He Could Be a Star” – Dad and Tony
• “Electricity” – Billy
• “Once We Were Kings” – Company
• “The Letter – Reprise” – Mum and Billy
• Finale – Company

Billy Elliot the Musical Live is presented in London by Universal Stage Productions, Working Title Films and Old Vic Productions in association with Tiger Aspect and is based on the Universal Pictures/ Studio Canal film.

This production involves the multiple award-winning creative teams behind the film including writer Lee Hall (book and lyrics), director Stephen Daldry, and choreographer Peter Darling, joined by Elton John who composed the show’s score. The production features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, the associate director is Julian Webber, costume design is by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Martin Koch. The show is produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn and Sally Greene. Angela Morrison and David Furnish are executive producers.
For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, and is funded by the Anne Ray Charitable Trust, Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Rosalind P. Walter, The Agnes Varis Trust, The Starr Foundation, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Jody and John Arnhold, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, The Joseph & Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, The Lewis “Sonny” Turner Fund For Dance, and PBS.

Visit Great Performances Online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information about this and other programs.

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