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'Billy Elliot' closes a Lyric-al summer at the Civic Center

With book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John, “Billy Elliot” has a driving rhythm and infectious melodies. Lyric’s production is directed by Ashey Wells, with a superb cast and “made in Oklahoma” design team. Wells has given us a solidly grounded show that flies to close Lyric’s phenomenal 2015 summer season.

Set in the gritty mining villages of the north of England, “Billy Elliot” is the story of a boy pursuing an unanticipated dream against the norms of his village and against the wishes of his family. The dialect takes a few minutes to get in one’s ear, but it’s well worth it.

Starring (there is no other word for it) as Billy is Brooks Landegger, who is appearing in his first acting role in a musical theatre production. Landegger has danced featured roles with the New York City Ballet and sung in the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus, so he has the singing and dancing parts pretty well nailed. His acting chops are nothing to sneeze at either, though he may want to smooth out a couple of minor technical edges over time.

The role of Billy carries the show. Sent off to boxing class by his miner Dad (Christopher Bloch), Billy accidently ends up in a girls’ ballet class, taught by the cynical and demanding Mrs. Wilkinson (Lyn Cramer). Finding an unexpected talent, she encourages Billy as a dancer. With his slightly crazed Grandma’s love of dance, his friend Michael’s instruction to be himself, and his mother’s voice in his life, Billy decides to try for an audition to the Royal Ballet school.

The men in town, including Dad and brother Tony (Tim Rogan), are struggling to make ends meet as the coal miners’ union is striking against the Thatcher government’s efforts to privatize the British coal industry. The men on strike try to support families on very small handouts while the scabs are getting paid a fraction of what the miners previously earned. , In the midst of the strike, Billy’s plans are revealed and crushed.

After many months, and a screamingly funny “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” number, Billy rediscovers his passion in a beautifully danced duet with his older self; the uncredited danseur gives Billy a chance to fly.

Bloch and Cramer provide the two pivot points of Billy’s life: his Dad is the center of his home life, and Mrs. Wilkinson comes to be the center of his growth as a young man. Both performers balance the roles against each other with skill and comic timing—executing another sort of dance. Rogan gives us the ‘might have been’ that Billy will face if he fails to follow his dreams.

Other standouts are Brenda Williams, whose comic timing as Grandma is precise and hysterical; Rachael Barry as a practical, gentle and supportive Dead Mum; and Evan Lennon as Billy’s “expressive” friend Michael. The scenes between the two boys are funny and tender.

The show as a whole steers a purposeful course between poignant and inspiring without ever drifting into emotional manipulation. The eventual failure of the strike with the miners returning under ground provides a counterpoint to Billy’s need to soar; the sets and costumes, while seemingly ordinary clothing, set the mood and the scene beautifully. Costume designer Jeffrey Meek has outdone himself with the subtle support the clothing gives to the characters. Scenic designer Kimberly Powers and lighting designer Helena Kuukka have collaborated to render the feel of an industrial mine and the small, tight spaces of a miner’s life. Dialect coach Rena Cook has done a tremendous job getting vocal and language unity from the cast in both spoken and sung language.

“Billy Elliot” plays this weekend through August 8, with performances Friday and Saturday at 8:00 and Saturday at 2:00 in the Civic Center Music Hall. Buy tickets through the Lyric Theatre’s website at, or call the box office at (405) 524-9312.