Tag Archives: Andrea Miller

Review Billy Elliot The Musical, WMC, by Barbara Michaels

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The wow factor is very much to the fore in this production of Billy Elliot – one of the most heart-warming of musicals, it tugs at the heartstrings from the moment it opens. Brought up in the tough environment of a small mining town in the north-east of England during the 1984/85 miners’ strike, young Billy’s passion for dancing leads him to follow his dream. Abandoning his boxing lessons, he secretly joins a ballet class. The only boy, Billy is the subject of much speculation and teasing – some of it malicious. On the home front, it’s even more so. Billy’s elder brother pours scorn on Billy’s dancing and does his best to nip the young boy’s emerging talent in the bud. Spurred on by his ballet teacher, who knows talent when she sees it, Billy is determined to carry on dancing.

Of the four boys who alternate in the super-demanding role of Billy, Lewis Smallman was the one chosen to open in Cardiff. His was a Billy that we all know – a schoolboy going straight to the biscuit tin when he gets home. But this Billy is still grieving for the loss of his mum, and Smallman manages this part of the role with an expertise beyond his young years, but it is his skill as a dancer that rightly steals the show.

There is star quality here. This Billy is equally at home in the comically camp dance number in which Billy and his friend Michael (Elliot Stiff) dress up on girls’ clothes to the elegant precision of a version of Swan lake performed with an older Billy (Luke Cinque-White)in a dreamlike sequence in the second half – not in the original film but blending in perfectly. Martin Walsh, as Billy’s Dad, struggling both with the deprivations of the strike with no money coming and the problems of a recently bereaved father trying to bring up a young son on his own, brings a depth of understanding to the role, displaying both toughness and vulnerability. As Billy’s dancing teacher Mrs Wilkinson, who knows talent when she sees it, Annette McLaughlin has the role off pat – under no illusions as to her own teaching, and generous in spirit, cigarette puffing when the opportunity arises and with the big-hearted generosity that characterises the north.


Peter Darling’s choreography for the tour differs slightly from the West End production, particularly in the foot-tapping number ‘Born to Boogie’ but most of the sensational dance numbers are the same – and pretty amazing they are, too, doing full justice to Elton John’s lyrical and swinging score in musical numbers that make you want to jump from your seat and join in. A small caveat –which seems almost invidious in the face of such talent – is that several cast members, including Smallman, have not entirely overcome the difficulties of the north east of England dialect.

The darker side of the story is the miner’s strike, and the stand-off between Thatcher’s government and the National Union of Mineworkers, with scenes played out at the pit face of one of the mines threatened with closure, and in the working men’s club where the miners hold their meetings, and the soup kitchen which is established there for the hungry miners and their families during the strike. Light relief is there, too, in the shape of Grandma – not always quite with it (she hides her pasty in the bedclothes much to her grandson’s disgust!). Andrea Miller’s Grandma is a great cameo, displaying a love and empathy for, and with, Billy and his dreams with which many grandparents will identify.

Overall, though, Billy Elliot belongs to the young, and the ensemble of dancers and singers more than do it justice. Bravo!

Runs until 16th July at the WMC

Writer: Lee Hall
Music: Elton John
Choreographer: Peter Darling
Director: Stephen Daldry

Review Billy Elliot WMC by Gemma Treharne-Foose

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Fans of the original Billy Elliott movie, also directed by Stephen Daldry can expect a little bit of extra magic from the Wales Millennium Centre’s hosting of the hugely successful Billy Elliott production.

Charismatically led by the mesmerising young actor Lewis Smallman, the show takes us on a pleasing detour from the original film script. We not only see brand new additions to the story but lengthier explorations in to the characters of Billy’s Mam, Nana and Michael (who you may remember has a penchant for his sister’s clothes and has a soft spot for his friend Billy). There are plenty of cheeky exchanges and gritty working class banter courtesy of the superb ensemble cast and the kind of unguarded and politically incorrect observations and comments reminiscent of drunk uncles or grandfathers at Christmas. This was the eighties, after all!

The show respectfully and tastefully contextualises a time of great fear and a sense of national panic about the fate of mining communities, punctuated by the innocence and childish sense of fun of Billy and his fiend Michael. The two battle with conforming to the unwelcome stereotypes and limitations placed upon them in the masculine mining communities during the miner’s strike. Throughout the whole production, the community is at war with the police on the picket lines and the sense of hatred towards Margaret Thatcher is palpable. There are sprinklings of ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie Maggie – out, out, out!’ chants, naughty jokes, insults, political Thatcher and Heseltine puppets and an incredibly designed giant Margaret Thatcher (milk snatcher) model emerging from the stage at one point, which will remind you of the ‘Spitting Image’ years. There is a simply spectacular scene where Billy and his ballet classmates are in the middle of a lesson while dancing coppers clash with picketing miners…the story telling in Darling’s choreography, use of pace and the physicality of the actors was a powerful highlight for me.


I loved the additional scene in the musical where Andrea Miller’s character Nanna paints a picture of what life was like for women when ‘men went out to mine’. For all the much-romanticised community spirit and camaraderie of the mining men…life was pretty shit for the women left behind.


Nanna’s rebelliousness and Joie de vivre as she literally gives the finger to gender stereotypes and misogyny is infectious and this nod to gender politics and male chauvinism was later echoed when Billy caught Michael trying on dresses. Michael innocently asks ‘What’s wrong with being dressed as a girl?’, as if dressing as a girl is worse than actually being one. There is a fantastically camp and cute scene where Michael and Billy deliver an incredible call to action during their energetic and playful dance piece: be who you want to be – dress and all!

While Daldry’s movie gave us pacy cinematic editing and a razor sharp script, it’s fair to say the script for the on-stage production doesn’t quite match the quality of the original film script. Some of the lyrics and exchanges are a little simple and at times clichéd. On the first night of its long run, some of the Geordie accents were a bit ropey and there were some sound issues with a creaking set BUT we are more than compensated with incredible choreography thanks to Peter Darling. This is a real shot of adrenaline in the arm and a classic feel-good show. Go see this show, take your Mam…wear a tutu, even – you won’t regret it.


Title: Billy Elliott
Venue: Wales Millennium Centre
Dates (15th June-16 July), PN 15th June.
Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall
Director: Stephen Daldry
Design: Ian Macneil
Technical: Costume by Nicky Gillibrand; Lighting by Rick Fisher, Sound by Paul Arditti.
Cast includes: Anette McLaughlin, Martin Walsh, Andrea Miller and Scott Garnham.
Producer(s) Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn and Sally Greene.
Running time: 3hrs