Having made its Broadway debut last fall, Billy Elliot: the Musical was the big winner at last night's Tony Awards ceremony, nearly sweeping the awards in the Musical categories, claiming 10 Tonys total.
The original film’s leap from screen to stage seems especially natural. Music and dance are crucial to the plot, in which the young title character pursues his dream of becoming a ballet dancer against the backdrop of the 1984 UK miners’ strike – and some of his family’s wishes. Billy’s fits of dancing are scored by pop classics by T. Rex, the Clash, and Paul Weller’s outfits the Jam and the Style Council, many of which are being heard through home stereo speakers and headphones as Billy lets himself go.
This more organic use of music is in sharp contrast to the stage production's numbers, written by lyricist Lee Hall, who wrote the original film, and composer Sir Elton John. Still, the spirit of the songs found in the original film can’t help but to have influenced those in the musical – especially since the lyricist has such a direct connection to the movie version, and the composer was a contemporary (and fast friend) of the most frequently heard musician on the film’s soundtrack, T. Rex’s Marc Bolan. A classically trained pianist who made his name as a glam rocker, John’s well suited to be involved in this particular musical production.
Whether or not a film version of the musical based on the original film will be made (à la Mel Brooks’ The Producers or John Waters’ Hairspray), the drama and joy found in the music and story of the original Billy Elliot will surely stir the cosmic dancer in viewers who haven't yet seen its award-winning stage incarnation.