Having just graduated from the World Arts and Cultures department at UCLA last June, I took a couple performance studies classes which, while exceptionally grueling, were begrudgingly interesting and are still highly applicable to daily life. With this very brief intro to performance studies under my belt, I feel like I could sit down and write a ten-page essay on
Billy Elliot the Musical--but I'll save that for another time and place. I will, however, tell you that if you have not yet seen this fantastic production, you should
run to the Pantages now,
before you miss it.
I absolutely adored the movie and have seen it at least ten times, if not more. It was one of those movies that was so moving--the heartache, the frustration, the sweetness--I cried every single time I watched it. But I haven't seen Billy Elliot in years, so while I remember the basic plot, the musical felt very fresh.
My friend Meaghan came with me on Tuesday night to see
Billy Elliot the Musical and she agreed that because stage is much different than film, the production's director and art director are able to interpret scenes in a new way that elegantly interlaces the two main plot lines. I was only twelve or thirteen when the film was released, so the complex contrast between the stories of Billy and his striking coal miner father and brother were probably lost on me anyway, given my youth, my lack of political awareness, and my lack of worldly experience. But seen on the stage as a 24-year old the irony of Billy's father and brother fighting for justice while ignoring the excruciating oppression and injustice they cause Billy is unavoidable and heartbreaking. The spectacular Act I finale cements this conflict beautifully, when Billy's father forbids him from participating in the Royal Ballet's auditions and Billy proceeds to dance angrily (this time his choreography heavily influenced by modern dance, rather than the graceful and often peaceful ballet), first in his bedroom but then, when the set drops away, in front of and against riot police and their bullet proof shields. The result is striking, terrifying, and almost relieving, as if Billy is dancing for all the times you were a teenager and were forbidden from doing something you cared deeply about-and even for all the injustice happening in the US and the world in 2012.
Seems apropos, doesn't it?
For all the seriousness and sadness in
Billy Elliot The Musical there is also plenty of humor. Michael (played by, I believe, Jacob Zelonky on Tuesday)-Billy's chubby, cross-dressing friend-provides perfectly-timed comic relief; the kid's hilarious. (He is usually silly, but the character of Michael also brings up further notions of "queerness"-an idea that deserves to be more fully fleshed out in that ten- or perhaps fifteen-page paper!) Also flexing her comedic muscles is Regan Mason Haley as Tracey Atkinson, one of Mrs. Wilkinson's other ballet pupils. Grandma also offers some curmudgeonly comedy, but it's often bittersweet. She has a song that definitely made my eyes well up!
Despite all the wonderful things happening on stage in
Billy Elliot The Musical, there were a couple weak points. The actor who played Billy on Tuesday night was spectacular and, of course, adorable. But his accent was a bit forced, and unfortunately the bathroom scene where Mrs. Wilkinson convinces Billy to take classes with her was not nearly as passionate as it is in the film.
But my main complaint? Where's all the T. Rex music? I desperately wanted to hear some
I Love to Boogie. It could have even been during curtain call! But no such luck.
After the show, Meaghan and I ran across the street to Wood & Vine to grab a drink. I'd been here once to work at a
Hollywood Arts Council membership mixer, but only had a margarita (the special that night). This time we both got a couple of exotic-and insanely good-cocktails. I started out with a Magnolia (Rain cucumber vodka, ginger honey, cucumber, and lime juice) which was extremely light and refreshing-and I'm not usually a vodka person. Meaghan got a standard whiskey drink, maybe an old fashioned, which she said was tasty. After making friends with a Canadian couple in town for the woman's 30
th birthday, we ordered another round. I decided to try the Aviation (New Amsterdam gin, Maraschino, Crème de Violette, lemon juice) which was spectacular, and Meaghan tried the Sazerac, an amazing combination of Old Overholt rye, Peychaud's absinthe, and simple syrup. Yowza! I really like Wood & Vine-it's perfect for a post-theatre drink (late night happy hour!) or bite. Their hushpuppies are ridiculous.
Magnolia on the left, whiskey on the right
After Wood & Vine the birthday girl invited us up to their king suite at the Redbury up the street. If you have never been to the Redbury,
go! I had never seen the inside, and it's the coolest thing ever. Everything is red and moody, with giant black and white photos of Old
Hollywood stars like Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo tucked into dark corners. It's all very luxe and sexy. And their room was fantastic. With a glass of wine in hand, we listened to some music, sat on their covered balcony, and watched the rain fall onto the Knickerbocker apartments next door. After our glass of wine, we parted ways (with a new place to stay if we ever visited
!) and trudged down a very wet and slippery Walk of Fame.
Could she be any more rad?
It was just another night in
Billy Elliot the Musical
runs at the Pantages Theatre thru May 13. Check our calendar for dates and times.
Wood & Vine
is located in the Taft
6280 Hollywood Blvd.
The Redbury Hotel
is located at
1717 Vine St.