Wheelock’s ‘Billy Elliot’ showcases boyhood with grace and wit

Ben Choi-Harris with Seth Judice and Shane Boucher of “Billy Elliot.” (Image courtesy of Glen Cook Photography.)

The Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of “Billy Elliot” showcases young talent in a timeless coming-of-age story.

Based on the 2000 film “Billy Elliot,” the musical’s plot revolves around young Billy, whose preference for ballet shoes over boxing gloves challenges his father’s and brother’s conventional ideas of boyhood. Billy’s personal struggle for fulfillment is countered by his family’s issues, brokenhearted from his mum’s passing and a community suffering from a miners’ strike in 1984. The musical premiered in London’s West End in 2005 and moved to Broadway in 2008, where it won 10 Drama Desk Awards and 10 Tony Awards, including best musical.

The dance number delights crowds in “Billy Elliot.” (Image courtesy of Glen Cook Photography.)

The play is recommended for ages 8 and up, for strong language. A parent should judge their child’s emotional maturity to see if they are ready and would enjoy the play.

“Billy Elliot” touches upon difficult themes like gender stereotypes, death and family dynamics. The production is a wonderful blend of light and funny moments as well as heart-wrenching moments. It handles the serious topics with grace and wit.

The child actors are what make the show a success. Billy Elliot is portrayed by the charming and endearing Seth Judice, 13, of Houston, Texas, an accomplished dancer. For young actors to be able to tackle such complex issues is impressive to watch.

The songs are uplifting and moving. They serve to make a heart-tugging moment even more emotional or add some much-needed levity after serious scenes.

However, the musical provides families a good opportunity to discuss difficult subjects with their children, using the musical as a backdrop to the conversation. At the same time, “Billy Elliot” is an excellent chance for some good ole fashioned fun.

“Billy Elliot’s” cast of 40 includes adults and children from many communities in Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, such as Asian American actors Gary Ng, Phoebe Anthony, Emi Rhodes, Charlotte Um, Lily Park, Ben Choi-Harris and Caroline Workman.

“Billy Elliot” will play at the Wheelock Family Theatre until Feb. 26. For tickets, visit www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org.

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About Sara Brown

Sara Brown is the Sampan health editor.
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