Review: Billy Elliot The Musical, Auckland Theatre Company

Jaxson Cook, 11, as Billy Elliot (Michael Smith Photography/Supplied)
Jaxson Cook, 11, as Billy Elliot (Michael Smith Photography/Supplied)

Auckland Theatre Company has chosen a modern classic to christen its shiny new theatre at Wynyard Quarter.

But Billy Elliot's world couldn't be further from the polished floors and commissioned light installations of ATC's new digs.

Set in a dying British mining town during the time of 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher (whose birthday happened to fall on opening night), Billy Elliot the Musical tells of a young boy who dares to be different.

Billy's dad thinks his son's off practising his upper cuts and left hooks, when really he's perfecting pirouettes and pliés among a gaggle of hysterical girls.

Review: Billy Elliot The Musical, Auckland Theatre Company

From left: Jaxson Cook as Billy, Andrew Grainger as George and Stanley Reedy as Michael (Michael Smith Photography/Supplied)

ATC's production is big, ambitious and full of heart. The vision is not always perfectly executed, but it's a solid, uplifting production.

Jaxson Cook, 11, stars as one of three Billies. He is an expressive, energetic dancer, and although perhaps a couple of years away from having quite the strength to elevate the role, Jaxson easily captures the determined spirit of the young boy.

He is on stage for most of the show's two-and-a-half hours, and makes light work of it.

Other highlights from the sizeable cast include Stephen Lovatt as Billy's dad and Rima Te Wiata as his mischievous grandmother.

The production is heightened by Malia Johnston's impactful choreography and a powerful adult ensemble, at their best in Sir Elton John and Lee Hall's stirring anthems like 'Once We Were Kings'.

There's even some impressive aerial work, although the transitions into and out of the harness could use some finessing.

Review: Billy Elliot The Musical, Auckland Theatre Company

(Michael Smith Photography/Supplied)

The show took a while to find its emotional heart, resulting in a first act that didn't clearly convey a sense of struggle or conflict, whether internal or external, up until tearjerker 'The Letter'.

This seems to be a function of the book itself rather than just the cast, although a few scenes stuttered and felt forced or unnecessarily prolonged.

It hit its stride in the second act though, when the band tightened up and the characters gelled.

Review: Billy Elliot The Musical, Auckland Theatre Company

The musical is set against the backdrop of mining union unrest (Michael Smith Photography/Supplied)

As the townspeople unite behind Billy despite their own struggles, we get a much clearer sense of the motivations underpinning their actions and attitudes.

Simultaneously about the importance of community and individuality, Billy Elliot is a feel-good show that's hard not to find love for.

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