Elton John's score is just as dull. This is easily John's least memorable Broadway score, and yes, I'm counting the epic mega-flop Lestat. There is not a single, hummable, memorable tune, shocking considering John's stellar track record and career. His score starts with "The Stars Look Down," a tune he clearly intended to be Billy Elliot's version of "Do You Hear the People Sing." The song simply doesn't work, and the dead on arrival tunes continue from there. Adding to the problems are Martin Koch's thin orchestrations which feature many pre-recorded moments and Paul Arditti's loud, obnoxious, and bombastic sound design which relies on an overuse of echo mics.
The design team has its share of issues as well. While Nicky Gillibrand's costumes are neither here nor there, Ian MacNeil's set is atrocious. It is easily the most hideous, over-designed, and unnecessarily complex set I've ever seen in a Broadway show or tour. It's often confusing as to where we are, an issue usually addressed in Scenic Design 101.
Thankfully, there are two bright spots in the creative team, the first being Rick Fisher's lighting design. His lighting is perfect, beautiful, and eye catching, especially during the dance numbers. But it is Peter Darling's choreography that really is the centerpiece of the show, and it is splendid and challenging. The awards and praise he's received for this show are well deserved. This show really comes alive through the dance numbers, and every one of them is good in their own way, particularly Billy's solos, the act one finale, and the curtain call. However, there's quite a lot of full company numbers, and the more that everyone else dances, the less special Billy is for his interest in ballet. If the whole point of the show is to see someone courageously go against the grain by studying ballet, shouldn't the grain refrain from dancing? I'm also a bit confused by the excessive amount of tap dancing. We see Mrs. Wilkinson teach Billy ballet, but she never even mentions tap. If he taught that medium to himself, he sure is a prodigy!
Still, while the creative team is brimming with talented individuals, most of their contributions fall short, and the talented cast can't save the show, try as the might. Judging by the heaps of praise from other critics, the standing ovation, and the 10 Tony Awards, I'm clearly in the minority with my opinion of Billy Elliot. However, I still stand behind my opinion that this entire cast, and the audience as well, deserves a far better show than this.
RUN TIME: 2 hours and 55 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
Due to adult language, this show is not recommended for young children. Please note that several roles, including the role of Billy Elliot, are double cast.
Billy Elliot plays The Bass Concert Hall at 2350 Robert Dedman Drive, Austin TX 78712 now thru Sunday, December 16th. Performances are Wednesday 12/12 thru Saturday 12/15 at 8pm, Saturday 12/15 at 2pm, and Sunday 12/16 at 1pm.
Tickets are $30-$80.
For tickets and information, please visit www.texasperformingarts.org or http://austin.broadway.com