Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Billy Elliot Set To Make Imperial Leap Across Pond

Billy Elliot Set To Make Imperial Leap Across Pond

One of the West End's top tuners, Billy Elliot, will play Broadway's Imperial Theatre beginning September 17, 2008, as posters in the storied Shubert Alley have revealed.

It seems like ages ago since I last reported on the Lee Hall/Elton John musical. In fact, it was last October 20 when I noted that a casting notice was finally posted. At that time, February 2008 was the anticipated date for commencement of rehearsals.

As longtime readers may recall, Billy Elliot - The Musical ranked eighth on my list of the best shows I saw during the 2005-06 Theatrical Season. But you also may recall that I'm worried that the Broadway producers will find it necessary to tinker with this intrinsically British show.

Casting has yet to be announced, but expect that announcement to make a huge splash no matter which side of the pond you're on.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for London tickets.
Related Stories:

Billy Elliot Leaps One Step Closer To Broadway Bow (October 20, 2006)
Which British Hits Will Be Broadway-Bound? (September 20, 2006)
Billy Elliot Set for 2008 Broadway Bow? (September 6, 2006)
Remembrances of London’s 7/7 (July 7, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #8 - Billy Elliot The Musical (May 18, 2006)

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At 23 August, 2007, Blogger Interval Drinks said...

I'm curious about any potential tinkering too. Billy Elliot has some sequences that very British-specific, but then surely they're all part of the package that makes the show what it is.

In the London production of Spamalot they've awkwardly inserted the term West End, while simply ignoring all the Vegas/Broadway references that, as a result, no longer really fit, something that annoyed me when I saw it - the producers should either make intelligent changes or leave the show as is, not settle for clumsy half-measures.

At 23 August, 2007, Anonymous ilovenola2 said...

I, too, am apprehensive about the upcoming Broadway incarnation.

I have been following the development and success of "Billy Elliot the Musical" since it's conception. The film, while a wildly popular and financial success worldwide, did much less well in the US-- due partly, I believe, to mistaken art-house marketing and also to the influences of varied overly-conservative folk nationwide who just couldn't allow a story in which a working-class boy embraces a questionable "feminine pursuit" and kisses his young gay friend goodbye as he leaves for his new life in the Hell of the Artsy World. Indeed, one week after its initial opening in Jackson, MS, on a single multi-plex screen, "Billy Elliot," the movie, disappeared from the theater the day after a prominent rave-quoting ad appeared in the Friday newspaper. By Saturday Billy had tapped on out of town--- with only a tepid excuse from theater management. Pressure from the Right had obviously been applied.

As Broadway seems to have cultivated a strong "small-town" presence in its audience base, I believe that pressure will certainly be brought upon Sir Elton and Daldry to modify certain aspects of the story and, of course, the "adult language" and unfamiliar dialect. I suspect that Broadway folk will want Billy, Family and Friends to be modified into some "acceptable-to-our-audiences" form of American working class folk-- perhaps oil riggers or construction people(no disrespect intended here) who can't have the boy dancing off with those "Green-witch Village degenerates" when he should be playing basketball or football.

Let's hope that Sir Elton, Daldry and Company will be inspired by the example of Mart Crowley, author of "Boys in the Band," who refused to sell his work to Hollywood unless he produced and scripted the film, handpicked the director and the entire original stage cast was used.

I'd rather travel to Toronto to see an authentic "Billy" than to NY to see "Billy Lite, American Style!"

ilovenola2 in New Orleans

At 23 August, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

Well, I loved the movie and I'm really looking forward to seeing the musical, so I hope they don't change it at all. There are lots of British terms in the Harry Potter books, and 12-year-olds don't seem to have a problem with them. So I think American theatre audiences could handle Billy Elliot.

If there's a word or reference that would completely confuse people, that's one thing. But isn't the whole point to take you to someplace you've never been? I agree with interval drinks. It's a show about a very specific time and place in Britain.

BTW, I just remembered that in the Deuce Playbill, there was a brief description of the scoring in a tennis match. So maybe there could be a little background on the subject in the BIlly Elliott Playbill or glossary of unfamiliar terms.

At 23 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Dear IV, Dumbed-down versions of British hits have plagued Broadway with Taboo and Bombay Dreams easily coming to mind. But even Mary Poppins was altered in what I believe was a negative way.

You're right. Billy Elliot is ostensibly a very British show. While most Americans likely would not understand the context around the coal miner issues of the early 80s, I shudder to think that the producers decide that it has to be extensively re-written to clue them in.

At 23 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Dear ilovenola2:

I dare say that there is a huge difference for what passes as art in Mississippi than in New York City almost in spite of the tourist crowds. As recent shows like Spring Awakening would suggest, Broadway no longer shies away from frank sexual matter, even when it pertains to minors.

However, as you noted, "Billy Elliot" as a film perhaps suffered the fate of an arthouse flick, and while it earned critical praise (along with capturing three Academy Award nominations: Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress), it's U.S. box office was limited to just over $17 million.

I seriously doubt Elton John would allow Broadway producers to pressure him into watering down the sexual nature of Billy Elliot, but where he and Lee Hall might find pressure is on the very foreign storyline.

At 23 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, How ironic that you would invoke "Harry Potter." Did you know that while Americans' first glipse of Harry Potter came via "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the British version of the book was called, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." Two nations separated by a common language, indeed.

Your suggestion that they provide a detailed history of the coal miner strike and overlay it with the Maggie Thatcher era is a wise one.


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