Saturday, December 11, 2010

Playhouse Square: Billy Elliot the Musical

Before the performance, two footnotes to my discussion of box offices: I decided to give today's matinee of Billy Elliot a whirl, and chose to buy my ticket at the depressing PlayhouseSquare Box Office. When I arrived and there was one person in line in front of me. Five minutes later, there was still one person in line in front of me. She turned around and grumbled, "Slowest service in Cleveland" in my direction buy to no one in particular. Also, curiously, the $7 "restoration" fee that appears online is absent, but an otherwise undisclosed $2 surcharge shows up on the credit card receipt. I give up.

Ticket eventually in hand, the State Theatre lobby is beautifully decorated for the season, and in a corner by one of the stairs was a cellist playing beautifully... It was pleasantly surreal to stand on the opposite side of the lobby listening to him play and watching the hustle and bustle of people before the house opened. As I made my way to my seat the thing I always hope will happen happened: An attractive (and, I learned, ambitious) woman roughly my age took the seat next to me--alone. We struck up conversation and actually chatted most of the pre-show, all of intermission, and on the way out after the show. But, sadly, for the second time this week right before I was going to ask for her number or invite her out for a drink she mentioned her boyfriend.*

Now for the show since I know only about 2 of you actually care about my dating life. I will say that I had high expectations based on some of the buzz.

Leaving the theater I had two very different reactions: Technically I thought it was great; probably the most coherent audio mix I've heard in the State, beautiful lighting, versatile scenery. Wonderful dancing.

As far as the plot and casting were concerned, I didn't get it. With the premise that this is a show about Billy "struggling to fulfill his dream" the pacing seemed slow, and much too much time was spent on the miner's strike and very little time on Billy's development. Yeah, he's a great dancer, and his dad thinks he's going to boxing lessons when he's really taking ballet lessons, but (either through lack of character development in the script or just the particular actor playing Billy today) he didn't come off as having a passion for it -- he actually came off as being rather disinterested -- let alone "dreaming" of pursing dancing. With the story not really seeming to move anywhere, there were moments during the first act where I nearly fell asleep. The second act was marginally better, with the curtain call being, the best part of the show. Casting wise, the physical differences between Billy's father (Rich Herbert), Billy's grandmother (Patti Perkins) and Billy (at today's performance, Lex Ishimoto) were so jarring as to foreclose any suspension of disbelief.

Musically, it all sounded good, but only Solidarity inspired feelings of like, and a Billy-with-Billy's-Older-Self dance with beautiful music and literally soaring action that doesn't seem to appear in the list of musical numbers.

(From seat N 209 - Nearly dead center of the house, about 3 rows in front of the balcony rail...exactly my preference for plays and musicals)
* - Actually, earlier this week substitute "husband". A product of the online dating world, I still have never actually asked a woman for her number "in real life" -- but I'm getting frighteningly close. Does anyone know a rule of thumb for the finger semaphores that women pull off with rings? That would probably be helpful.

No comments:

Post a Comment