Nothing exudes immense strength disciplined with infinite control like a male ballet dancer. Sadly, many male dancers take flak from peers and even family for pursuing this demanding training, especially at an early age. Billy Elliot’s story about defying societal conventions to pursue your dreams (one that, strangely, I had never seen before) is popular in both movie and musical form, and BOBDIREX’s cast that spans all ages presents an engaging telling of the tale.
At the helm are director Bob Harbin, choreographer Kenny Shepard, and vocal/musical director and conductor Trevor Fanning. Together, they created a boisterous and touching rendition, even tackling British accents and the crazy clothes (Peachy Keen Costuming) and hair from the ’80s.
Seventeen-year-old Thomas Whitcomb is center stage as Billy. Whitcomb captures the innocence and budding talent of a boy torn between his family and his passion. But don’t let that baby face fool you. In the last number, Whitcomb’s roguish grin and sassy steps show that he knows just what he is doing—and he loves it.
Vocal standouts are Holly Stults as the fiery Mrs. Wilkinson and Bill Book as Mr. Elliott. Special mention goes to 13-year-old Jack Ducat, who shows no self-consciousness in donning women’s clothing, as Billy’s friend Michael.
Out of several, one particularly moving scene shows Billy dancing with his older self, Stu Coleman, in a well-executed glimpse of what Billy’s future could hold. The song “The Letter,” featuring Whitcomb, Stults, and Trisha Shepard (as Billy’s mother), is also exceptionally emotional.
Some lighting and mike missteps were distracting, but hopefully these will be ironed out for the remaining performances. The entire ensemble has so much enthusiasm that you can tell a lot of heart went into staging this show.