In one of many striking images in Brian Kite’s staging of Billy Elliot – The Musical, an army of northeast England miners, having had their strike busted by Maggie Thatcher, descend en masse into a pit, the lamps on their helmets blazing forward, as they sing the rousing “Once We Were Kings.” This emblemizes a funeral for the trade union movement in the U.K., and for the town the union once protected. A 12-year-old child (the excellent Mitchell Tobin), having horrified his family by taking ballet classes, will flee to pursue the opposite of solidarity: individuality and self-expression at the Royal Ballet School in London. The hit musical, based on the film, and with Elton John’s songs, builds its canopy over these contrary poles of solidarity and individuality, celebrating and sentimentalizing both. The spectacle is awash in tropes — motherless child (brother, do they milk that one), foster mother (Natalie Sachse), effeminacy in the face of machismo, and a father (David Atkinson) who barely understands what’s going on. Still, Kite’s staging of a very strong ensemble soars at La Mirada, as does Dana Solimando’s original choreography — not to mention the superb pit orchestra (musical direction by John Glaudini). A motto about musicals: Just because they’re shlocky doesn’t mean they can’t be true.
Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 16. Continues through Feb. 8, 2015
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