A review of 'Billy Elliot'
by Robert Hurwitt in The San Francisco Chronicle.
Elton John's score is a mixed blessing, though a great improvement over his "Aida" or "Lestat." John's at his best in some of the more folk- or union-based songs and a few whimsical numbers, aided by Hall's smart lyrics, but overindulges in sentiment. Without taking anything away from music director Susan Draus' hardworking small ensemble, there's something prepackaged about hearing instruments you know aren't actually in the pit.
Still, Daldry and Darling's vibrant stagings grab hold from the start. "The Stars Look Down," razzle-dazzle girls' dance-class "Shine" and explosively evolving "Solidarity" introduce the eclectic dance forms. The eyes never rest as Billy's home and other sites unfold and slide in from the walls of Ian MacNeil's boldly drab union-hall set (expressively lit by Rick Fisher).
Interview with choreographer Peter Darling
....When casting the movie, Daldry and Darling saw hundreds of potential Billys, and came close to abandoning the project when a youngster with both dancing and acting talent proved elusive. They finally settled on Jamie Bell, though ballet was not a strong suit.
"Jamie was a fantastically rhythmic boy, but he would freely admit he would never have gotten into the Royal Ballet," Darling said. "I think it's always best to meet the performer where their skill is."