For me a trip to London is just not complete without seeing a West End show, and in this case we watched Billy Elliot and Matilda the Musical. It’s always a tactical decision whether to have tickets bought before setting off or whether to buy them down in London from one of the vendors. In this case I’d bought my sister the Matilda tickets for Christmas. When we decided we would see a second show and decided in advance on Billy Elliot, we could see (thanks to the “What’s on Sale” tab on the TKTS website) that these tickets are now usually available daily at a discounted price. I’ve bought from TKTS in Leicester Square before, and this is a great way of doing it if you have no specific shows in mind. So that was the plan, right up until LastMinute.com did a deal, and I decided to buy some in advance to give us more free time when in London.
This show has been playing on the West End since 2005, and I am ashamed to say I had never seen it until this week. I’ve been to London a fair bit to watch all sorts of other shows, but never this one, even though I own and love the soundtrack. Needless to say, it was long overdue.
The best praise I can give it is to say that it is one of the best shows and productions I have ever seen!!
Specifically the score is amazing, with both fantastically rousing and beautifully poignant songs. It is a heart warming tale of young boy set against the political backdrop of the1984 miners’ strikes, a significant event in modern British history that we should make the effort to know more about (if, like me, you were only born in the 80s). There were amazing emotional performances from a very talented principle cast, and it showcased some extremely talented dancers (not just Billy himself but the cast of young girls in the ballet class as well as the adult ensemble).
What I loved most is that I was not really expecting the amount of dance that was in the show. And the choreography was so clever with its storytelling… it never felt like the story was put on hold to make room for a bit of dancing. The boy who played Billy blew me away. Some of the numbers blew me away. It’s definitely a must see, and I’d see it again tomorrow!
This show has had a lot of fantastic press and critical success, and after seeing it I have to say that it is well deserved. It’s quite a quirky show, quite different in style from Billy Elliot, and for me the main star is the clever song writing by Tim Minchen and the very witty lyrics. That, and the ridiculously talented young cast!
One negative was that I didn’t much like the characters of the Wormwoods – I know you’re not supposed too, but they were too much like caricatures for me without much to redeem them. Miss Trunchbull on the other hand was perfect –sinister and scary, but amusing for an audience to watch.
The golden moments were when the “kids” (about 6 of them were adults playing older kids) sang the big ensemble numbers, which had an amazing sound and were full of energy and character. Overall the essence of Roald Dahl was really captured, and there was a more gruesome and British vibe than in the film of Matilda (which also holds a special place in my heart). Also, one thing that always excites me about theatre is innovative set design and clever staging, which there were plenty of in this show.
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