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Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba
Photo credit: Chelsea Lauren

Anne Jeffreys and Ruta Lee
Photo credit: Chelsea Lauren

(From L-R) Zach Manske, Kylend Hetherington, Kuril Kulish, J.P. Viernes and Ty Forhan
Photo credit: Chelsea Lauren

Jo Anne Worley
Photo credit: Chelsea Lauren


Rosalind Marmel in Los Angeles, April 17, 2012

Suspense leading to the Los Angeles premiere at Hollywood and Vine’s Pantages Theatre on April 12th of the ten time Tony award winning theatrical production of “Billy Elliot The Musical” was seductive and tantalizing. “Billy Elliot The Musical” has won 81 national and international awards to date including the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical.

 The publicists for this Broadway/L.A. sensation at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles pulled out all stops as they teased us toward the night that we were all waiting for.
It was one shtick after another. What delighted me the most was the hype created on February 2, 2012 when the ingenious publicists threw a public party marked by several celebrations, declaring 2/2/2012 “Tutu Day.” (Tu-tu [too-too] n. A short, full skirt usually made of several layers of tarlatan or tulle, worn by ballerinas.”)
There was a Tutu Photo Contest on the Pantages’ official Facebook page,  . They invited fans to upload photos of them selves wearing tutus. Votes were cast and the one who received the most votes won 2 free tickets to the first performance of “Billy Elliot the Musical”. Do check out the Facebook page. There is excitement there for everyone and all ages.
There was a “Wear a Tutu and Get a Free Pair of Tickets,” for the first 22 people in line at the box office wearing tutus. There was a Tutu Day 2 Fer-Deal with 2-for-1 tickets offered for sale.
Truthfully, I was afraid that April 12ths’ opening night would be anti climatic. No way!
“Billy Elliot The Musical” is proof that musical theater can stand-alone based on its merits even in the 21st century. This show thrills audiences of all ages with talent, songs, dancing and lyrics and a message that has had and will have relevance throughout the ages.
It does not rely on helicopters landing on the stage or massive chandeliers lowered from ceilings. The use of lighting is notable. The special effects are minimal. The acting dancing, songs and choreography and wondrously poised and talented children playing thought provoking parts will certainly remain in my mind forever.
At the 2011 Toronto opening of Billy Elliot, the illustrious Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish, who grew up in Toronto talked with The Canadian Press. After they viewed, the hit film “Billy Elliot” at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 Furnish conceived the idea for a stage musical. Furnish said that Sir Elton was in tears because the story so resembled his own personal life.
On Christmas Day of 2010, the couple became the parents of a baby boy. John composed the music for this ten time Tony Award winning show about an 11-year-old British boy whose father doesn’t understand his desire to become a ballet dancer.
The book and lyrics are by the film’s screenwriter Lee Hall. The choreography by Peter Darling could not be better. Stephen Daldry seamlessly directs.
The story is set in a small town in northern England, during the 1984 coal miners’ strike while Margaret Thatcher ruled. Billy’s mother had died. Rich Hebert plays his earthy dad. Billy is expected to become a coal miner like his brother, dad and granddad. The family scrapes together 50p per week for boxing classes for Billy. When left to give the hall keys to Mrs. Wilkinson, the dance teacher, Billy becomes fascinated with the music.
Secretly Billy joins the class unable to confide in anyone except for his cross-dressing friend Michael who listens while dressing in his sister’s clothes.
Michael casually explains that away, “Me dad does it all the time.”
Billy’s dad Jackie has a major fit when he finds out that Billy has been spending the 50p on ballet classes instead of boxing classes. Billy accepts Mrs. Wilkinson’s offer of free private lessons convincing him to audition for the Royal Ballet School.
The strike escalates unsuccessfully. Billy’s father unexpectedly discovers Billy expressing his deepest feelings through dance. He goes to meet with Mrs. Wilkinson. Despite conflicting emotions about the path that Billy has chosen Jackie decides that even if it means breaking the strike he will find a way to get Billy to the audition.
The song, “Solidarity” exemplifies the bond within the coal miners’ union and the community. They pitch in getting money together so that Jackie and Billy can get themselves to London to audition. It is unacceptable to accept money from a strikebreaker. Desperately they do. Billy and his father fight together so that Billy can follow his heart, pursuing the dreams that will change his life forever.
Sir Elton John told The Canadian Press, “We would never encourage our son to do anything he didn’t want to do. If he wants to do something totally alien to what I do, then fantastic!” The singer said he would encourage his son to do whatever he wants.


At the red carpet opening, I met three mothers. The three are mothers of three of the young performers. Rosalie Znutas, whose zaida emigrated from Russia when he was four, is the mother of Danielle Znutas, one of the ballet girls. Kim Goldman’s daughter, Samantha Blaire Cutler plays the role of Billy’s friend, Debby. Lynne Barnes is the mother of Madison, another one of the ballet girls who has won many national and regional awards for singing and dancing.
The moms were there watching and snapping photos of stars including Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. Actress, singer and humanitarian Connie Stevens, (who at one time dated Elvis Presley and was married to actors James Stacy and Eddie Fisher is the mother of Joely and Tricia Leigh Fisher) with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Toronto Italian Walk of Fame graced the red carpet. So did eight time Emmy Award winner Cloris Leachman, Jo Anne Worley, Melissa Manchester, Bruce Vilanch and Andie McDowell. “Dancing with the Stars” stars were cheered. The stars were there to watch the moms’ kids. The moms were there to watch the stars.
We talked. I asked them how they felt about their daughters being international touring celebrities while pre-teens and if they had concerns about fame at such early ages. I asked how their daughters felt about it.
The answers were unanimous. They and their daughters “know how lucky they are.” They had just arrived in California from Toronto where the show played. They loved the museums, the culture, and the Canadians they met. They are all part of one big Billy Ell
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