Popular film adaptation heads to RMTC
BRITTANY HOBSON, ARTS & CULTURE EDITOR
With music written by Elton John, Billy Elliot the Musical should be destined for musical greatness. But in the end, it’s the dancing that shines in the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s production of the hit musical.
Set in Durham Coalfield in North East England during the 1984 UK miners’ strike, Billy Elliot is based on the 2000 film. Billy is a young boy living with his father, brother and grandmother in an uncertain time. Pressured to take on the same manly, mining role as his father and brother, Billy is forced to take boxing lessons where his nimbly figure does him no good.
One day after boxing class Elliot (literally) stumbles into a ballet class, setting off the story’s chain of events. The musical stays true to the film’s storyline with a few minor exceptions — most likely for the purpose of bringing it to life on the stage.
Billy’s father Jackie and brother Tony, played by Cory Wojcik and Markian Tarasiuk respectively, work in the coal mines. The same is to be expected of Billy, played by Ethan Ribeiro on opening night, but will be on rotation with Eamon Stocks throughout the run of the show. With his father and brother too busy standing on the picket lines, Billy relies on his dead mother’s spirit for guidance. Played by Paula Potosky, she appears to him in times of uncertainty, reminding him there is nothing wrong with being who he wants to be.
And Billy wants to be a ballet dancer.
Among all the political topics, beautiful set design and tight ensemble work, Ribeiro’s dance skills are the real star of this show. Making his theatre debut, Ribeiro relies heavily on his years of classical training to get him through his first performance. Not to say his acting chops aren’t great, but the most exciting parts of Billy Elliot are when Ribeiro masters his fouettés, tap dancing with his (secretly) gay best friend and performing a grand rendition of Swan Lake — with some added wire work at the end.
Billy Elliot the Musical runs until Feb. 6.
Using characters from a small town, Billy Elliot reminds the audience the importance of being yourself, whether that is a ballet dancer, a chain-smoking dance teacher, a young gay boy who likes to dress up in woman’s clothes or a sassy girl who likes to show her hoo hoo off.
Whatever the case may be, it’s advice that still sticks today.