Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

Billy Elliot

This stage adaptation of the 2000 movie about a kid from Britain's coal-mining country who escapes a dreary future by learning how to dance is a giant leap forward for the musical. Stephen Daldry and Lee Hall, reprising their roles as director and writer, have faithfully captured the film's realism, as well as its uplifting message, without pandering: this is a show that really earns its cheers and tears. Elton John's alternately catchy and soulful songs and Peter Darling's thrilling choreography help complete the transformation. If the cast and production don't quite measure up to the brilliant London original — where the north England accents and Thatcher-era politics came more naturally — a couple of notches below perfect is still great.