Josh Rittberg

Staff Writer

The Fulton Theater’s production of “Billy Elliot” opened on Thursday September 21. By all appearances the production had an incredible opening night. During another viewing the following evening, even the theater’s ushers were buzzing about the production’s success. Hearing this level of praise from the Fulton’s staff only increases a prospective patron’s level of excitement. As soon as the curtains went up and the cast started singing the musical’s triumphant opening number, “The Stars Look Down,” the audience was assured they were in good hands.

“Billy Elliot” is set during a brutal mining strike in England and it tells the story of a young boy named Billy Elliot who discovers his love of dance as his father, brother and the entire community are fighting in the strike.

The musical is based on the film by the same name. The music comes courtesy of the legendary pop artist, Elton John, and his Tony winning score for the production not only advances the plot but also leaves audiences members humming the tunes well after they have left the theater. The book and lyrics are by Lee Hall who also wrote the screenplay for the film version. Hall’s book stays true to his script for the film but is unafraid to add and expand upon it.

The cast of “Billy Elliot” is uniformly strong. At my showing, Jamie Martin Mann portrayed the titular Billy. Mann was a true triple-threat and his dancing specifically in the second, showstopping number “Electricity,” left the whole audience in awe. The role of Billy Elliot is so challenging that two actors share the role– Brooks Landegger plays Billy Elliot during the matinee showings, and he is assuredly just as capable.

The roles of Billy’s father, Jackie and brother Tony, were played by Timothy Gulan and Alex Drost respectively. Their characters are very involved in the community strike plot-line. Both are powerful in their roles, and seeing them slowly warm up to Billy’s passion for dance is one of the many joys of the production.

Jackie brings his son Billy to boxing lessons and in the same building ballet lessons are being taught by the hilarious and touching Miss Wilkinson who is played expertly by Janet Dickinson. Through these lessons Billy discovers his love for ballet and he becomes so skillful that Miss Wilkinson advises him to audition for the Royal Ballet School. Billy’s and Wilkinson’s bond are the heart of the show and Dickinson and Mann create a relationship that touches the entire audience.

Other standouts in the cast include: Patti Mariano as Billy’s crass, scenery chewing Grandmother and Johnny Marx as Billy’s best friend, Michael, whose second act number “Expressing Yourself” is another showstopping moment.

There are many more cast members to be singled out, though they are all wonderful and the strength of the production’s cast is one of the main reasons to see this show.

Direction and choreography provided by Adam Pelty is extremely professional. His choreography specifically for the second act “Swan Lake” sequence is very impressive. Additionally, sets by Willam Mohney and lighting by Paul Black manage to effectively convey the many locations in the story while also being showy where and when they need to be.

There is not a weak point in this production. It is nice to go to the theater and see all of the elements working equally so harmoniously. The Fulton Theater’s “Billy Elliot” is the total package.

This production of “Billy Elliot: The Musical” will leave audiences dancing with joy, and it is easy to advise everyone see this show without reservation. It is going to be a major hit for the Fulton and it is one that audiences will not want to miss.

“Billy Elliot: The Musical” is showing at the Fulton Theater, 12 N Prince St and runs through Oct. 16. Tues, Wed. Thurs, 7:30pm, Fri., Sat, 8pm, Sun, Wed. 2pm.

Tickets cost $33-$76 ($10 for student rush). Millersville students need to come to the Fulton’s box office approximately an hour before the show starts and present their Student ID to receive the discounted price.