BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | INTERVIEW, BLU RAY REVIEW & GIVEAWAY

We revisit our review of BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE from early October for two reasons, 1) the people at Universal Pictures Australia got us a pre-recorded interview with one of the first Billy’s, Liam Mower, who plays the old Billy in the musical movie recording and then 2) those same fantastic people also gave us 5x copies of the movie on Blu Ray to giveaway – this is one you really want to own, to give to your mum or your grandma as a present for Xmas or to keep and watch regularly. It is amazing, heartwarming and just freaking brilliant!! If you miss it BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE will be releasing on DVD and Blu Ray on December 4 at all reputable home entertainment outlets. Following my original review will be the interview and then after that will be the giveaway – enjoy!! (oh and get a drink – it’s a long total article :)).

ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM OCTOBER 2014.

BILLY ELLIOT is a worldwide phenomenon. Back in the year 2000, when it released, the movie was a smash hit. It turned Jamie Bell into a household name and did more for social acceptance and being who you want to be more than anything ever to proceed it. It took five years since the film released for Lee Hall to re-write his amazing screenplay into a stage musical and for director Stephen Daldry to collaborate with Elton John on writing all the music. Since its release in 2005 it has played for 9yrs to mostly sold out performances and also played all around the world. It has won 80, I repeat eighty global theatre awards including ten Tony Awards and five Olivier awards. I have seen the musical and it is pure magic, as was the movie. This live filmed performance is as good as both. In late September it screened live around the world (we missed out in Australia) and now we get a special encore performance. We get one day, TOMORROW 5TH OCTOBER, to see it screening at limited cinemas around the country. Check your directories and do yourself a favour, WATCH THIS FILM!! If you miss the screening tomorrow, do not fear, it is releasing on DVD and Blu Ray in November sometime. I am working towards a giveaway and will be owning my own copy of this. I could watch it over and over again. I literally well up throughout most of the show for many reasons. The movie is releasing from Universal Pictures Australia, is exempt from rating and runs for just under three hours – this includes a 20min interval. This is perfect viewing.

 

BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE AUSTRALIAN BLU RAY COVER IMAGE
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | AUSTRALIAN BLU RAY COVER IMAGE

 

REVIEW BY JASON KING

It should be noted the performance is starring Elliott Hanna as Billy Elliot. He is not the kid in the poster or the trailer. I have tried to include as many pics of him in the article. Why? He deserves it – this kid owns! He is also the youngest Billy ever cast. The production runs for over three hours and stars a child actor, who must also be a master of many disciplines of dance, be able to sing and be young and motivated and have energy that is bordering on unimaginable. The biggest part, they must perform for three hours straight and be flawless for every performance. I do not know how they do it. And Elliott Hanna was superb as Billy. There is always four Billy’s and they always rotate. How they do not injure themselves is beyond me. There have been close on 40 Billy’s since the show commenced in the UK and most of them have gone on to be professional dancers and/or Hollywood actors (Tom Holland from THE IMPOSSIBLE for example).

If you do not know the story or have never seen the movie – STOP, NOPE NOT HAMMER TIME, NOT IN THE NAME OF LOVE – as in what you are doing today or tonight and go and rent the movie. It is sensational. OR – buy your tickets online and head out tomorrow and watch the filmed stage musical. The Sea Eagles did not make the Grand Final so not really much point in watching that 🙂

 

BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE ELLIOTT HANNA IMAGE
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ELLIOTT HANNA AS BILLY ELLIOT

 

Set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984/’85 miners’ strike, Billy Elliot is the inspirational story of a young boy’s struggle against the odds to make his dream come true. Follow Billy’s journey as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.

The story is one of the best told in modern time. The only thing that separates it from a worldwide historical story is that it is very British but also very working class British and this is where the rest of the world bonds with the story. It has a lot of Thatcher bashing, a lot of the issues faced during the miners’ strikes and there are a couple of names and/ or jokes that go over your head BUT the universal themes of struggling, what is right and what is wrong and the issues of working class are ones the entire world knows. For young people the issues of bullying, acceptance, being yourself and doing what you want that makes you feel great is something that is rarely encouraged.

 

BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE IMAGE
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ORIGINAL BILLY (LIAM MOWER) RETURNED AS OLDER ELLIOT AND ELLIOTT HANNA AS BILLY ELLIOT

 

It looks at being gay and/ or straight at this age and how things can effect you. It is for this alone that I very much weep through most of the show :). I was a young dancer and loved it but got bullied once and stopped doing it. I went with the masses, drank heaps, smoked bongs A LOT and missed a passion, a calling at the time, and it is one of my life’s great regrets. My entire life has been affected by that one act of bullying in 3rd grade. It never helped that I hated that 3rd grader beyond belief and then he killed himself in 4th grade. The bullying was never his fault, he was acting out what he went through at home. Horrible! But Billy follows his dreams through everything, even when he himself is unsure of what it means to him to dance. The scene where Billy explains what it means to him to dance, always has me sobbing :).

 

BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE IMAGE
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ELLIOTT HANNA AS BILLY ELLIOT AND RUTHIE HENSHALL AS MRS WILKINSON DANCE WITH THE GIRLS

 

All the cast are sensational, from his mother, to Mrs Wilkinson to his father, loved them all. I always disliked Billy’s elder brother but he is truly fighting his own demons and he cannot be blamed for being caught up in his struggles. Mrs Wilkinson has always been a favourite of mine. You gotta love her. Ruthie Henshall was amazing as the bogan smoking dance teacher and she does own most of the scenes she is in and the love her character has for Billy is superb. Regardless of her bogan lifestyle she is at heart a dance teacher, and she can see amazement when it is in front of her. If not for people like her the greats of this world in all their fields would not exist. People who encourage, steer and put their all in for someone else’s benefit are the true angels of this world. You can also see a nice chemistry between Henshall and Hanna – it made for even more smiles and love for the show and cast.

Special mentions to Ann Emery as Grandma, she is hysterical and how she does that dancing night after night I do not know and one of my faves of the movie and the show, Michael, a superb character of joy and happiness. His scenes truly make the audience belly laugh. Zach Atkinson performs in the live performance as Michael and you will not be disappointed.

One thing I have to mention. It does not bother me and adds to the show. The amount of smoking and language in it was a lot more than I was expecting. I know it was part of that culture and that time but some people may be embarrassed or offended by the language.

 

BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE IMAGE
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ELLIOTT HANNA AS BILLY ELLIOT AND DEAK WALMSLEY AS DAD

 

My one gripe about the screening, hosted by the wonderful peeps at Universal Pictures Australia, the audience sat there quite stuffy and while they loved the show, I wanted to cheer and clap at the end of brilliant numbers, of which all of them are brilliant. I do want to thank them for throwing on a spread of food for the intermission, that was wonderful and much needed.

The movie of the show is as good as being at the show, it is heart warming and like a big hug of awesome. I cannot recommend it enough and it will be on a regular play when it joins my Blu Ray collection. Do yourself a favour, if you can’t get to London, watch the movie in cinemas tomorrow and/ or buy it on DVD/ BLU RAY.

 

LIAM MOWER DANCING AS BILLY ELLIOT
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | LIAM MOWER WHEN HE WAS BILLY

 

INTERVIEW WITH LIAM MOWER/ OLDER BILLY

LIAM MOWER

[Older Billy]

Liam Mower was the first boy ever to play the role of Billy Elliot on stage. As one of the first three boys cast in the show, he shared the lead with James Lomas and George Maguire with whom he jointly won the Olivier Award for best performance by an actor in a musical in 2006, the youngest actor ever to have done so. Liam performed as Billy until September 2006 and like Billy, spent time training with the Royal Ballet School. Liam completed his dance training at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance where he graduated with a first class BA (Hons) degree at the age of 19. Since then Liam has performed extensively with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, in the Nutcracker, Play Without Words, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Liam is returning to Billy Elliot the Musical to dance the part of Older Billy especially for Billy Elliot the Musical Live.

Why did you go up for the role of Billy originally?

I had been doing ballet for about two years and I was about 12 years old when I auditioned for the part. The opportunity just came along really quickly. Jessica the children’s casting director was doing a big nationwide search. She was looking all up and down the country for kids that could play the parts of Billy, Michael and Debbie. She came up north and looked at loads of schools in Newcastle, near to where the show is set, and Hull, my home town. There were eight boys dancing at my dance school. I had never sung a note in my life. She just said, “Can you sing one of your favourite songs?” I ended up singing “Happy Birthday” because I was really shy. Then I got recalled to a second audition in Leeds that weekend. And then after it just progressed and I was called to London on a regular basis for more auditions. It was one of those situations where you see less and less boys at auditions as time went on. It was almost a year in auditions.

Was there a summer camp?

They called it the Billy school. It lasted of two or three months and every weekend I’d go up to Leeds for classes, putting together a showcase for the final casting week when all the creative team were there.

How many were in the final audition?

There were about ten of us, all up for the part of Billy.

How did you feel?

I remember a few days later waiting for them to call me back and being really on edge. They said, “No matter what happens we’ll call you” and I just thought I haven’t got it and they weren’t going to call. Then I got in from school one day and there was a phone call, I picked it up and it was all of the creative team on loudspeaker. “How are you?” “Fine.” I couldn’t really talk properly because I knew they were phoning to tell me whether I’d got it or not. I was a bit confused at first. I was expecting them to say, “You’re in! You’ve got it!” But then it finally settled in. Obviously it was amazing but we’d been auditioning for such a long time I’d become attached to the people I’d met and really wanted that role.

What are your memories of the first night?

I remember just feeling actually quite calm. I was obviously nervous but it’s probably the calmest I’ve ever felt before a show in my life. I didn’t really know the enormity of it or how many were going to be seeing the show. All I was concentrating on was to not forget what I had just learnt over the past few months. I just remember feeling excited. I was a bit taken aback by what the auditorium looked like with an audience in it. The first few minutes were quite surreal but once I’d settled in to the show it was a really amazing experience.

How did you get on with the other Billys?

We all got on really well. James and I were from up north and George was from Essex and we’d never lived away from home before so we automatically had a connection and felt like we had to look after each other. We were all away from home at a very young age. We all lived together from the very beginning.

Did you go to the show when you weren’t in it?

I always loved watching the show when I could but because we were only young we had to be chaperoned so we didn’t have much opportunity to go out on our own. We were always being looked after.

Did you leave the show with a heavy heart?

I did. I was ready to leave for sure. I was 14 and I’d got to the stage where maybe I could have done an extra six months but it seemed like a really good place to leave because I was about to start school. But I was heavy-hearted. It was such a massive part of my life for two or three years. It was daunting to leave and think what a journey it had been.

How well did you know Billy? Did his story overlap with yours?

There are some similarities in Billy’s story and my real life story. The Royal Ballet School connection – I went there for a year.

 

OPENING NIGHT OF BILLY ELLIOT MUSICAL 2005 IMAGE
BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | James Lomas, George Maguire, Sir Elton John, Liam Mower at opening night party (2005)

 

So you knew what he was going through?

Exactly. I’d been there and when I auditioned it was a very strange atmosphere, all these kids, posh kids with their posh mothers and something I wasn’t used to. I’d never seen so many boys with tights on. To go into that was quite strange. And the huge panel in the audition at one table judging and writing notes down. You’re standing there in your tights and leotard feeling pretty nervous. And that’s exactly what Billy goes through.

What were your strengths?

My strong point was ballet because that’s all I’d really done for two or three years previously. That just happened naturally, me working with Peter. With the speciality dances like “Electricity” or “Dream Ballet” that happened really easily for me. I was used to moving in that way.

How about the tap element?

I had tapped a little bit, but it was something I had to learn. It was really fun workshopping what Billy could do in “Angry Dance” and objects he could climb and jump off and throw. There were loads of trampolines!

You’re returning to the show especially for Billy Elliot the Musical Live. What will you be doing for this special performance?

There’s a part in the show where Billy dances with his older self, called “Dream Ballet”. It’s when Billy has a vision of himself in 10 or 15 years’ time. It is all a dream sequence during which Older Billy enters the stage and they do some choreographed chair movement then dance a duet before younger Billy flies towards the end of the sequence. I’m going back to perform the role of Older Billy.

Is it easy to learn?

It was. It’s so funny, the muscle memory. When I was Billy it was one of my favourite parts of the show and I think it’s always remained in my body and stuck there. But I’m nervous – returning and being in the theatre and being on the stage and nothing has changed and it’s exactly the same as how it used to be. Maybe the stage will feel a little smaller. I was really honoured to be asked.

There is going to be a line of 25 Billys dancing in a special finale at the end of Billy Elliot the Musical Live. What are you preparing and how do you anticipate that it will feel?

They’re calling it a big mash-up and they’re choreographing a special number in which the 25 Billys will be involved in some way. You’ll just see 25 Billies flying around the stage, pretty much. It’s going to be amazing. Everyone who has played Billy is from completely different backgrounds and parts of the country and quite a few were brought over from America.

Has it been difficult to come down from the high of being Billy Elliot?

No I don’t feel like I’ve really come down. It was a really amazing part of my life growing up. It opened so many doors for me and gave me such an amazing experience being on stage and performing as a kid. You can’t really teach that. It’s helped me as an adult.

Have you sung on stage since?

No. It wasn’t conscious; it wasn’t like “I’m never singing again”. But my dance took over as I’ve got older and I’m tending to do a lot more straight dance theatre narrative pieces without vocals. That’s not to say that I would never do it again.

 

5 Pops

 

With special thanks to Universal Pictures Australia to win one the 5X BLU RAYS of BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL LIVE you need to either like and share/ retweet this post on Facebook/Twitter/ Google+/ Pinterest/ LinkedIn/ Flipboard or Instagram (all the links to follow us are on the top right of homepage), you then need to leave a comment below stating the answer/s to the following questions:

What is the best theatre you have ever seen and why?

If you do not have social media then get with the times – you can still enter, leave your entry below and email me at jking@saltypopcorn.com.au telling me you don’t have social media (you still need to enter on the website).

Prizes will no longer be awarded to first in first served. It will now be a game of skill and selected purely on the thoughts of the judges, said judges being the Salty Kernels.

The prizes will be sent after in the next couple of weeks. Good luck! Oh, and minor housekeeping – huge apologies for overseas readers, this competition is only available to Australian residents.

 

 

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