Theater Review: Howard Steven Frydman
aka “The Howard”
Production: Billy Elliot the Musical
Theater: The Goodspeed
Book & Lyrics: Lee Hall
Music: Sir Elton John
Director: Gabriel Barre
The Howard’s Exhale – “Billy Elliot the Musical” – an inspired visual spree of music and dance – !!
“Hello Possums”, sending out a “hey noni noni”, a “Holy Baryshnikov Batman”, a “ ‘oi oi oi Dancing Boy”, and lastly a “Leapin Lizards” to this astounding “Fred Astaire-fest” of a fantastically fine production of the Tony Award winning Broadway hit “Billy Elliot the Musical”. The production which features inspiring songs by the legendary Sir Elton John, and based on the British film about the story of an 11-year-old boy who just wants to dance, is now arabesque-ing your way at the world famous Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut – and we are so grateful to Goodspeed for this incredible production that soars to new heights!
Let me tell you, this production of “Billy Elliot the Musical” directed by Gabriel Barre, Choreography by Marc Kimelman, Scenic Design by Walt Spangler, and costumes by Jennifer Caprio- sets the Goodspeed stage ablaze with an inspired and vibrant visual spree of music, dance and the telling of a youth’s journey of discovery – oi- and let me tell you about the talent- I’m simply kvelling! The kids first- the adults later- !
Ten – count em ten kids – youngsters – are the breakout stars of “Billy Elliot” – these little hoofers – dance their hearts out to a grateful audience. In recognition of their gifts of acting and dancing we praise them here now – including; Jon Martens, Erica Parks, Margot Anderson-Song, Amy Button, William Daniel Russell, Gabriel Sidney Brown, Tess Santarseiro, Camiel Warren-Taylor, and our two co-leads, Taven Blanke and Liam Vincent Hutt as “Billy”. I so rightly state these are the most talented “young ’uns” to take to a stage since “Annie” first set an “Easy Street” high steppin and “Tomorrow-ing” on the Goodspeed Stage over 43 years ago – it’s a hard knock life indeed! But you ALL did good! Now don’t you ALL get “swell heads” on me you young princes and princesses of Goodspeed- you future Kings and Queens of Broadway!
“Billy Elliot the Musical”, winner of 10 Tonys including “Best Musical”, had its original West End premiere at the Victoria Palace Theater in 2005 with it’s official Broadway bow at the Imperial Theater on November 13th, 2008. BTW- the three boys who rotated the role of “Billy Elliot” jointly won the 2009 Tony Award for “Best Leading Actor in a Musical”. As you can already surmise, the tale is about a motherless English lad who just wants the opportunity to dance. Strike Strike Strike! – “Solidarity” forever – a coal miners strike is imminent in the tough Northern English Mining town of County Durham. Our hard knock life – Billy’s miner Dad, (Sean Hayden), brother Tony (Gabriel Sidney Brown) and Grandma (Barbara Marineau) strive to prepare young Billy to “stand on his own” by having him take boxing lessons at the local Gym, yet when Billy takes hold of “the dance” and his tutelage under the motherly ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson ( Michelle Aravena) he now dreams of a life beyond the coal mines and the opportunity of a lifetime – an audition at the prestigious Royal Ballet School.
Two actors portray “Billy Elliot”, in rotation here at Goodspeed, Liam Vincent Hutt, and Taven Blanke, during my evening performance we were honored to take in Liam’s performance – awe inspiring excellent – yet we so wished we could also return to take in Taven’s performance as well – not to compare actors, but to see all aspects of this stunning musical centerpiece. We give high praise to both actors Michelle Aravena as ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson and Barbara Marineau as “Grandma” – memorable performances both. Now the coveted “Howard Noticed You Award” goes to Mr. Jon Martens- you little scene stealer. A mighty bravo to you young sir – for your absolutely amazing, commanding, comedic, Elton John-esque “joy through the roof” performance as “Michael”, – we see bright opportunities for you young prince of the theater! “Billy Elliot the Musical” is a “Must See” at Goodspeed. Enjoy!
“Billy Elliot the Musical” will run September 13th through November 24th, 2019. Curtain times are Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select performances at 2:00 p.m.), Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (with select performances at 6:30 p.m.).
Tickets are available through the Box Office (860-873-8668), open seven days a week, or on-line at goodspeed.org.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@g