Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance presents: ‘Billy Elliot’
Last Thursday night, Aug.15, my partner and I attended a showing of the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s Billy Elliot, and the performance rendered me to tears, from both laughing and crying.
The small, yet intimate theatre was packed to its gills with a variety of folks, young and old. The cast of the play was also diverse in age, as a great deal of the cast were playing children, including the star, Billy Elliot (Julian Pecoraro).
According to the Theatre Alliance website, Billy Elliot “tells the story of a young boy from a coal mining village in Northeast England who transcends class and circumstance to become a ballet star.”
This musical is set during the 1984-85 miner’s strike, and Billy’s working-class family consists of his dad, brother, (both miners on strike) and his elderly grandmother. (His mother passed away a few years prior.)
“They are not well off and have no experience with or tolerance for the arts. His dad and brother are totally against the idea of him learning to dance, but Billy finds himself drawn towards the ballet world,” the website states.
The cast did a fantastic job of conveying the emotions of each character to the audience.
Grandma’s song at the beginning of the play had me rolling on the floor, laughing. It had a bit of dark humor to it, which I appreciate. The same goes for the “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” number. My favorite part was definitely the song where Billy and his friend, Michael (Liam Forest), dressed in drag and sang about individuality.
The addition of the giant dancing dresses was awesome, and it went very well with the performance. Michael stole the show with his confidence, carefree mindset and enthusiasm. This was a bittersweet moment for me; it made me so happy to see that character feel comfortable enough to put on his sister’s dress and have a good time. But it also made me think and remember that character is set in the 1980s, which was a volatile time for the LGBTQIA community because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the general hatred for anyone not conforming to heteronormative gender roles.
The scene where Billy is reading Ms. Wilkinson (Heather Moorefield-Lang) the letter that his mother wrote to him before she passed, made me cry like a baby. (Just thinking about it now makes me tear up!)
I had to excuse myself during intermission to stop the waterworks. It was so poignant and so well done; I haven’t felt that strongly during a play in a really long time. The message of the letter really struck a chord with me, too. In that, Billy’s mother wanted him to know that she accepted and loved him no matter who he turned out to be. Throughout the whole play, Billy is trying to accept himself while facing those that have a hard time accepting him. This was such a heartwarming performance for all that were involved.
So far, I have noticed a common theme with the shows produced by the Theatre Alliance this season: The inclusion of LGBTQIA stories and perspectives. I definitely appreciated it, and so did my partner. Other local theatre companies should take note.
Next up on Sept. 6 at 8 p.m., is a staged reading of The Humans, which is a “story of the quintessential family reunion…Filled with equal parts humor and hurt,” by playwright Stephen Karam.
Then from Sept. 13-22 is The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez.
I am especially excited to see this play because it includes two of my favorite kinds of people: Drag performers and an Elvis impersonator.
Don’t miss it!
For more information, visit the WSTA website.