REVIEW: Billy Elliot, Sunderland Empire, Until April 30

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.
Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.
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After all these years, Billy Elliot is finally home and it’s an absolute sensation.

The musical is based on the iconic film, released in 2000, which was born in our area.

It’s set during the mining strike in Easington Colliery where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is waging a war against the industry.

Just as the film was, the show is heavily political and the characters don’t hold back their ill feelings.

The musical has spent 11 years on London’s West End and travelled the world, but last night really was something special, made clear by director Stephen Daldry’s pre-show speech which garnered whoops and cheers from the audience.

The show is gritty and real and packed with that northern humour we’re known for.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

It follows Billy (Haydn May) whose miner dad (Martin Walsh) pays for him to attend boxing classes every week.

But he’s not keen on the sport, and when he accidently stumbles into a ballet class being run by Mrs Wilkinson (Annette McLaughlin) he discovers a love and passion for dance, that his father and big brother Tony (Scott Garnham) don’t think very much of.

May is the real star of the show. His dancing ability is incredible and he’s a brilliant actor too. I was absolutely blown away by his performance. His accent slipped every now and again, but it’s a tough one to nail, and the other aspects of his performance more than made up for it.

He was fantastic alongside his best pal Michael (Elliot Stiff), who is coming to terms with his sexuality and has a penchant for dressing in his sister’s clothes.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

The pair’s performance to song Express Yourself is beyond fantastic, and it teaches us a lesson too.

Whether little boys like boxing, ballet, or dressing up in women’s clothing, it doesn’t matter. This show tells us that it’s okay to be different, in fact, it’s bloody brilliant. It’s something to celebrate and Billy Elliot does just that.

Little Lilly Cadwallender was another child star who gave an impeccable performance in the show. She was fantastic in the role of Debbie.

There’s nothing funnier than kids saying grown up things, and these ones swear like troopers, giving us endless chuckles.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

The language throughout the show is quite bad, and some people may find it a little offensive or inappropriate for little ones, but it’s one of the things that make the story even more realistic. These miners didn’t watch their Ps and Qs while talking about their situation and about Maggie Thatcher. They hated her and they didn’t mind saying it. Musical number Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher really hits the message home in a hilarious way.

The songs, by Elton John and Lee Hall, are firmly stuck in my head. Songs like Solidarity and Shine are super memorable.

The choreography in the show is sensational. It’s extremely imaginative and perfectly-timed. The way the different groups of people are intertwined through dance is magical.

The show made me laugh my head off, cry my eyes out, and just feel unbelievably proud. It deals with a time of real hardship and shows the sheer determination of these people to survive.

It also demonstrates the unwavering generosity of the people of our region. No matter how down on our luck we are, we’ll still think of others and do whatever we can to help.

There were many tender moments that moved me to tears and it was a real rollercoaster of emotions.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

There were times when I could do nothing but sit and shake my head in sheer disbelief of the unbelievable talent I was witnessing.

The show ended with a well-deserved standing ovation and every single person in the room felt like they’d been part of something special – and they had.

Billy Elliot is an absolute must-see.

Billy Elliot is at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, April 30. Click here to book tickets.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.

Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire.