The North Carolina Theatre‘s production of Billy Elliot the Musical has a six-day run at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, from Feb. 10th through the 15th. Would that it ran for another week.
Sam Faulkner plays Billy Elliot, the young man who discovers his path in life by accidentally being around when a ballet class begins after his boxing class. Billy reluctantly gets caught up and participates.
Sam Faulkner is a 16-year-old North Carolina boy, hailing from Charlotte, and a talent that will soon be recognized nationally, if that can’t already be said of him. He carries the show with the ease of an experienced professional, delivering song, ballet, tap, and acting performances of superior quality with the verve of expressive youth.
Playing Billy’s father is Raleigh’s own Ira David Wood III, whose performance is top-notch in every respect. The irascible old union leader and family patriarch, Dad, flows from Wood’s body and excellent Northern English dialect with a spark and vivacity that drives the fast-paced action of this show.
Interestingly, Billy’s older brother, Tony, is portrayed, with a needed depth, by Ira David Wood IV; and it is great pleasure to watch this father-son pairing interact, especially when they must disagree on matters of union policy and on Billy’s interest in ballet dancing. Their characters have a bit of a dust-up scene which has additional bite as these two pros battle it out.
Adding to their plight is the fact that the matriarch of the family is dead. The role of Dead Mum is ably played by Shari Jordan. Jen Neuberger does a bang up job on “We’d Go Dancing”, as Grandma, who is the one family member who is not conflicted by Billy’s choice.
The role of Mrs. Wilkinson, the dance teacher who recognizes Billy’s talent and presses him to audition for the Royal Ballet School, is performed with force and style by Janet Dickinson, who showed her character’s strength and determination when standing up to the burly union workers, and does superb dancing in “Born to Boogie.” Evan Lennon is wonderful as Michael, Billy’s friend who dresses up in girls clothes. His dance routine with Billy in “Expressing Yourself” can best be defined as a show-stopper.
The older Billy is performed by Maximilien Baud, who treats us to envisaging Billy in the future. McLaurin Hull is just adorable as Debbie Wilkinson, the dance teacher’s daughter who develops a crush on Billy.
The ensemble tirelessly performs song-and-dance routines that are complicated and energetic as well as moving around a plethora of scene items, a wonderful mass of buildings and walls that are combined and recombined, to create shifts from house to boxing/dance studio to union headquarters and other places, accomplishing their work with an alacrity and ease. The set was designed by Campbell Baird.
Lee Hall wrote the book and lyrics of Billy Elliot the Musical, and Elton John’s music is supported by the North Carolina Theatre Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Bill Congdon and associate music director/conductor Nancy Whelan. Eric Woodall has successfully filled the stage with a first-rate cast, and keeps the action flowing smoothly and with animation. Adam Pelty adapted the choreography of Peter Darling to smashing heights — the press of policemen with batons behind plastic shields was particularly impressive — and Billy’s dances highlight the skills and spirit of Sam Faulkner.
As noted above, this show deserves to have a longer run. It is great entertainment for all the family, with a story line that is heartwarming, heroic, and historic.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 11th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/02/11/4547834/theater-review-nc-theatres-superb.html; Feb. 11th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Karasarides: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Reviews-North-Carolina-Theatres-BILLY-ELLIOT-THE-MUSICAL-20150211 Feb. 10th Raleigh, NC ArtsNow preview by Melissa Howsam: http://artsnownc.com/2015/02/10/preview-billy-elliot-nc-theatre/; Feb. 9th Charlotte, NC Charlotte Observer preview by Lawrence Toppman: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2015/02/09/5502751/sam-faulkner-dances-into-the-future.html; and Feb. 4th Raleigh, NC WNCN interview with Sam Faulkner and Ira David Wood III, conducted by Valonda Calloway for “My Carolina Today”: http://www.wncn.com/story/28023887/billy-elliot-the-musical. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Feb. 10th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/02/raleighs-david-wood-and-charlottes-sam-faulkner-will-star-in-ncts-presentation-of-billy-elliot/.)
The North Carolina Theatre presents BILLY ELLIOT, starring Ira David Wood III, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 and 13 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 and 15 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $37.32-$138.68 (including fees).
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944; firstname.lastname@example.org; and http://www.nctheatre.com/2015-shows.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1106208.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 5204.
SHOW: http://www.nctheatre.com/shows/billy-elliot and https://www.facebook.com/events/825052334225129/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/billy-elliot-5181. 2015 SEASON: http://www.nctheatre.com/2015-shows.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes. VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14th, performance.
Billy Elliot (2000 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/442777/Billy-Elliot/ (Turner Classic Movies), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0249462/ (Internet Movie Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Elliot (Wikipedia).
Billy Elliot the Musical (2005 West End and 2008 Broadway musical): http://billyelliotthemusical.com/ (official London website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=475106 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Elliot_the_Musical (Wikipedia).
Elton John (music): http://www.eltonjohn.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=11938 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005056/ (Internet Movie Database), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elton_John (Wikipedia).
Lee Hall (lyrics and book): http://literature.britishcouncil.org/lee-hall (The British Council’s “Contemporary Writers” website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=475122 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0355822/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Hall_%28playwright%29 (Wikipedia).
Eric Woodall (New York City-based NCT guest director): http://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Eric-Woodall/ (BroadwayWorld.com bio), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=90124 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0940106/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/eric.woodall.98 (Facebook page).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.