Billy Elliot

Director Stephen Daldry has successfully adapted the 2000 movie, Billy Elliot, to the stage to create a "fresh emotional experience.” The show was a hit in London. The music is by Elton John.

Billy Elliot

Imperial Theatre

New York

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

(800) 432-7250


“The transfer of musicals from film to Broadway has a spotty history,” said Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News. But Billy Elliot, based on the 2000 film and with music by Elton John, “is that rare production—one that brings all the elements together and creates a fresh emotional experience.” The show, which was a hit in London, concerns a scrawny kid in a depressed British mining town who prefers ballet flats to boxing gloves. Young Billy’s miner father and older brother disapprove of his unmanly goal of becoming a dancer. But his transcendent talent predictably prevails. Director Stephen Daldry can’t avoid the clichés of such against-the-odds inspirational tales. To his credit, though, he fills the show’s three hours with “plenty of drama about family, class, poverty, politics, and the power of dreams.”

“The timing of the production’s arrival here, with the United States newly chastened by financial woes, gives it a resonance it might not have had” a few years ago, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. Billy Elliot is a “hard-times musical,” but also an “honest tear-jerker.” By painstakingly portraying Billy’s personal and artistic obstacles, Daldry makes the audience “understand the depth of the classic show-business fairy tale.” The sublime Hadyn Gwynne plays Billy’s chain-smoking dance teacher, who early on sees in the lad the spark of greatness. The title role is so rigorous that it’s played by three different teenagers on alternating nights. On opening night, the role belonged to the excellent David Alvarez, whose dancing captured Billy’s brave character.

“The biggest surprise may be the music,” said Thom Geier in The show “doesn’t sound like an Elton John musical.” It has none of the bombast on display in, say, Aida or The Lion King. The surprising range of songs includes the angry “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” and the affecting ballad “The Letter.” Not all the numbers are smash successes, but it’s good to see John both “working, and flourishing, well outside his comfort zone.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.