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'Billy Elliot' Times Four

March 17, 2010

The kid is of the essence in "Billy Elliot," the hit London and Broadway musical by Lee Hall and Sir Elton John that begins previews Thursday night for its Chicago debut at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre.

It is not an exaggeration to say that no other Broadway musical in existence -- not "Annie" or "Oliver!" or "Gypsy" -- places such monumental demands on such small shoulders.

Whoever plays the role of Billy -- that Northern English lad who discovers that ballet can be his own best form of expression, and also can offer solace in the wake of his mother's death and his coal miner father's ruination during the terrible Thatcher era labor disputes of 1984-85 -- carries the show, both physically and emotionally.

Not only is the actor on stage almost every moment of the show's 2 hours and 50 minutes of running time. But he must act and sing in a Northern English accent. He must be an immensely skilled dancer with technique to spare in ballet, tap and interpretive styles. And at moments he also must be a fearless acrobat -- one wholly at ease with taking flight at a climactic moment. Read More