I had the luck to see the brilliant West End musical Billy Elliot last week and from the set to the cast it was truly amazing.
The plot unfolds with the 1984-1985 County Durham miner strike, in North Eastern England. Billy (Ryan Collinson) is dealing with both his father and brother fighting the strike, the death of his mother, and trying to find a place besides the expected world of boxing. Billy soon finds an unexpected passion for ballet with the sassy, yet encouraging Mrs. Wilkinson (Gillian Bevan) teaching him and pushing him towards an audition at the Royal Ballet School in London.
Dreams start to clash though as Billy's father (Deka Walmsley) and his brother (Michael Peavoy) discover Billy's passion and forbid him from dancing, thus resulting in him missing his audition.
Billy decides to give up his dreams, but still can't resist dance. On Christmas Eve Billy's father walks in on Billy dancing and finally realizes the drive and talent his son truly possesses. With his father now behind him, the struggling miners collect the money to send Billy to another audition for the Royal Ballet School and hope that his dreams will finally come true.
One of the most impressive aspects of the show is definitely the set. Reported to have cost 5.5 million GBP for production costs (the film only cost 5 million USD) it certainly does not disappoint. Staircases and bedrooms disappear and reappear from underneath the stage, while scenes are easily pulled out by the actors. In one scene there's even a group of life sized dancing dresses to accompany Billy's 'puff' of a friend Michael and his song "Expressing Yourself".
Aside from the great set design, the cast propels this production forward with the sassy Gillian Bevan (Mrs. Wilkinson) who injects life and comedy into the play. Although there are four rotating boys who play the part of Billy Elliot, Ryan Collinson played Billy during the performance I witnessed and was tremendous. Fun fact? Collinson had no professional background in dance and became trained just in a mere few weeks before auditioning for the part.
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The Olivier nominations were announced today at noon in the May Fair hotel, by last year Olivier's best actor and actress winners- Roger Allam & Nancy Carroll. Matilda The Musical swept the nominations by being nominated into all 10 musical categories, which is the maximum amount of categories that a musical can be nominated for. The four actresses that play the title role of Matilda were nominated as a collective group for best actress in a musical. The top nominees for dramatics was The Lady Killers and the critically acclaimed One Man, Two Guvnors, each with 5 nominations. There was also a familiar A-Lister mixed in with the nominations: Jude Law- for best actor for Anna Christie. The Olivier awards will premier Sunday, April 15 2012.
Now some Five Fast Facts:
1.) The awards started in 1976 and featured only 12 categories. Eventually by the next year, the categories had grown to 16 and featured ballet and opera among them.
2.) There is no official building for the awards (although the Grosvenor House Hotel is most closely linked with it) and the ceremony has taken place in theatres and ballrooms across London. This year the ceremony will be held in The Royal Opera House.
3.) The awards were originally called The Society of West End Theatre Awards, but in 1984 Lord Laurence Olivier gave consent for his name to be used for the awards. Now the awards are most simply and commonly called the Olivier Awards.
4.) There have been actors and actresses who have won in both dramatic and theatrical categories, but in 1996 Dame Judi Dench won best actress for Absolute Hell and best actress in a musical for A Little Night Music, all in the same night.
5.) Although the Matildas in Matilda The Musical have all been joint nominated for best actress in a musical, there only has been one joint nomination to ever win, which occurred in 2006. Three boys, who played the title in Billy Elliot, were not only the youngest men to recieve best actor in a musical, but also beat out Hollywood A-Lister Ewan McGregor.
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