Just so you know: the kid can dance.
This is the most important thing to know about "Billy Elliot the Musical" at Signature Theater, both tender and effective. Director-choreographer Matthew Gardiner directs this re-enactment of the 2000 British film, an adaptation of the 2000 British film, won by Tony (Elton John), with the genre of theatrical authority. Signature spectators now depend on the right arm of Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer.
And "Billy Elliot," the story of an eleven-year-old boy from northeastern England, who prefers the heeled shoes that his work boots, supports from critically on the skills of the dew that represents it. Two young actors alternate in the role of Billy; On Wednesday night, it was Liam Redford who was heading towards the Signature main stage. (The other Billy is Owen Tabaka.) As a result – and with key turning points, Nancy Anderson as a dance teacher delivering tough love, and Chris Genebach as an incomprehensible early father – all is well in the show .
Remember, "Billy Elliot" is a good musical rather than an excellent one. The story picks up an old formula, that of the birth and grooming of an unlikely star of modest origin, and the score of Hall and John is sweet and serves intrigue well. But these elements have the impression to exist only to dress the moments that separate the truly galvanizing dance interludes of the evening, which almost all belong to the indefatigable character of the title.
Liam, young and long-limbed, looks pretty like a born dancer, a man who has a special talent for expression with his arms – yet with a certain brutality that suggests that the refinement of the technique does not happen overnight. In addition, he mastered the special accent of Geordie in the north-east of England. He also taught Gardiner to gradually reveal Billy's acquisition of ballet skills under Wilkinson's tutelage of Anderson. A youth scene where Billy reluctantly joins a class of schoolgirls and learns to perform a pirouette agreeably distils Liam's ability to express Billy's fascination with the form and concentration needed to perfect it.
From there, the chronicle of Billy's growth as a dancer becomes fascinating, especially with regard to the emotional number, with tap, which concludes Act 1, "Angry Dance," then the Dream Ballet Act 2. Paired with an adult male dancer, Grant Richards, playing an older version of Billy, Liam really goes up. It's a pas de deux they wish they had danced all night.
The counterpoint that feeds Billy and Ms. Wilkinson conducts an audition with the Royal Ballet School is a source of great tension and embodies such an ambition. It is a portrait of the declining fortune of his father and his coal miners. (The dance is so exotic in this part of the world that the ballet is pronounced "bally".) Placed in the era of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who breaks unions, when the country's miners went on strike, " Billy Elliot "allows some of the themes of"Norma Rae "except that there is no victory for the workers at the end of this story.
The political digressions (in "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher") and the paeans to workers around the world ("Once We Were Kings") provide "Billy Elliot" with opportunities to break down by the proletariat, but these are ephemeral moments and not the most convincing of the musical. .
No, it is the arms and legs of the coltish who gain mastery of Nureyev and Baryshnikov's vocabulary that define the compelling core of "Billy Elliot". And in neighborhoods relatively close to Signature's largest theater, the Max, with an audience representing three-quarters of the scene, this evolution occurs close enough for the dancers' passion to flourish. The scenographer Jason Sherwood ensures the simplicity of the environment. Some basic pieces take place behind a vertiginous wall.
An eight-member orchestra led by Tom Vendafreddo plays behind the wall. In Ryan Hickey's sound design, sometimes the voice of the singers uses less competition from the group; some words sung in accent are lost. In the big side roles, Anderson turns out to be a moving asset, confiding to Mrs. Wilkinson a sasser tempered by an air of disappointment. Genebach locates the warmth of a father whose love is a way to control his pride. And the young actresses who play girls in Mrs. Wilkinson's classes, starting with Vivian Poe (who alternates with Olivia McMahon) with her daughter Debbie, are each a pleasure.
At night, however, it's Billy's. Although it can be fun to buy a pack of two and see what each Billys can do, every night of "Billy Elliot," the heart beats wildly, for sure.
Billy Elliot the musical, music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall. Directed and choreographed by Matthew Gardiner. Musical director, Tom Vendafreddo; together, Jason Sherwood; costumes, Kathleen Geldard; lighting, Amanda Zieve; the sound, Ryan Hickey; production manager, Kerry Epstein; choreography fight, Casey Kaleba; Choreography of keyboards "Angry Dance", Mark Orsborn; dialects, Rex Daugherty; orchestrations, Martin Koch. With Dan Manning, Catherine Flye, Jacob Thomas Anderson, Kurt Boehm, Crystal Mosser, Harrison Smith, Sean Watkinson and Solomon Parker III. About 2 hours 45 minutes. $ 85 to $ 106. Until January 6th at Signature Theater, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. sigtheatre.org or 703-820-9771.