“Trent [Kowalik]’s world was so extreme. He had always been a wonder, winning Irish-dance championships since he was 5, but now he had landed the title role (or one-third of it, anyway--he is the brooding, heartbroken Billy) in the biggest new musical of the season. More than that, it was a once-in-a-generation role for a boy, as Annie had been, 30 years ago, for a girl. Yes, there are lots of kids these days on Broadway: Gypsy has seven, Spring Awakening eighteen, and minors make up the entire company of 13. But the young actors in those shows share the burden of the storytelling with adults or with each other. In Billy Elliot, the drama is squarely on Billy’s narrow shoulders. He stands at the intersection of its two central questions: Will Maggie Thatcher crush a northern-English coal-mining community, circa 1984? Will that community’s philistinism crush the boy who, in the aftermath of his mother’s death, discovers his improbable love of ballet?”
-- “The Peter Pans of Broadway”, by Jesse Green, in New York magazine, on the three Billy Elliots (Kiril Kulish and David Alvarez are the other two) and the pleasures and perils of a musical that would have them only as long as they don't grow up too fast
1. Three West End Billys--James Lomas, Liam Mower and George Maguire--perform “Electricity” with composer Elton John at the Royal Variety Performance, December 2004. Feel free to tear up when Liam Mower rings in the finale with his endless pirouettes.
2. Two years later, taller, more confident and out of the show, the three lads introduce the Sugababes at the same annual event, but not before summoning up past glory with a rousing tap dance. Barely out of teenhood, the boys now call themselves “veterans.” The video is here.
3. Another London Billy, Leon Cooke, is transfixing in this video of the climactic Swan Lake pas de deux, “where... Billy is spun high in the air (in a flying harness) by a hunky danseur noble identified as Older Billy; it’s a Peter Pan fantasy of being suspended, blissfully if temporarily, above the sweaty world of adults.”
PLUS: A highlight of Jamie Bell's breakout performance in the hit 2000 movie directed by Stephen Daldry
[Photo: Michael Nagle/NYTimes]