Review, ‘Billy Elliot’ – Bill Stephens

14 April 2024

Review by Bill Stephens, appeared (edited) in Canberra CityNews (12/4/24) and in full including production images on the Canberra Critics Circle blog (14/4/24). Excerpts below.

On Fergus Paterson’s performance – “On opening night the role of Billy Elliot was played by Fergus Paterson, whose performance in this critical role constantly drew cheers from the audience. Paterson breezed through Heine’s cleverly staged production numbers, ‘Shine’, ‘Born to Boogie’ and the extraordinary ‘Angry Dance’. He delighted in the effervescent duet ‘Expressing Yourself’ partnered by his friend Michael, this role performed with considerable panache by Charlie Murphy. Paterson astonished in the spectacular ‘Swan Lake Dream Ballet’ which he shared with accomplished ballet dancer, Jordan Dwight and broke hearts with his rendition of  ‘The Letter’ with mum, Jo Zaharias. But it was his confident singing and dancing in his big solo number ‘Electricity’, that had the audience cheering even before he led the entire company through Heine’s spectacularly staged ‘Finale'”.

This production also contains a surfeit of excellent performances. Among them Janie Lawson in a star performance as the hard-bitten dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, outwardly tough, but with a heart of gold, who recognises Billy’s talent and champions him.  Her opening number ‘Shine’ is one of the many high points of this show.

Joe Dinn brings impressive depth to his portrayal as Billy’s rough miner father, Jackie Elliot.
Similarly Lachlan Elderton gives a powerful performance as Billy’s strong-willed brother Tony Elliot.
Alice Ferguson delights as Grandma whose antics eventually draw the family together.

Among the hard-working ensemble, Tim Maher successfully mined his role as a duplicitous miner for comic opportunities, as did James Tolhurst-Close as Mrs Wilkinson’s long-suffering repetiteur, Mr Braithwaite. Zahra Zulkapli was delightfully precocious as Billy’s dance class friend, Debbie.

Confidently directed by Jarrad West and choreographed by Michelle Heine,
Cate Clelland has designed a spectacular setting that takes up every centimeter of the Q’s stage… enhanced by Tanya Taylor’s costume designs which appropriately conjure up ballet schools and miners’ protests. Caleb Campbell and Katrina Tang share the Musical Director responsibilities as well as participating in the excellent tight musical ensemble which accompanies the show.