The Israeli production of ‘Billy Elliot the Musical’.
(photo credit: OFER AMIR)
Based on the 2000 film Billy Elliot, the musical version, composed by Elton John to story and lyrics by Lee Hall (who also wrote the film’s screenplay), became a global success.
After premiering at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London’s West End in 2005, Billy Elliot the Musical was nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards, winning four, including Best New Musical. The production ran through 2016, and its success led to productions in Australia, Broadway and elsewhere. In New York, it won 10 Tony Awards and 10 Drama Desk Awards, including Best Musical. It has also won numerous awards in Australia, including a record-tying seven Helpmann Awards. Now, after two years of preparations, it is opening in Israel in Hebrew.
The plot revolves around motherless Billy, who trades boxing gloves for ballet shoes. The story of his personal struggle and fulfillment are balanced against a counter-story of family and community strife caused by the UK miners’ strike (1984–1985) in County Durham in northeastern England.
Eldar Groisman, the director and choreographer of the local production, says it was a dream come true.
“This production is the work of a group of dreamers who invested a lot of money in the project, and they deserve a lot of respect,” he says of the production, which will run in the summer at Cinema City Ramat Hasharon.
After choosing the director/ choreographer, the second task was finding the Israeli Billy Elliot. Some 150 young dancers auditioned for the part; in the end, two were chosen. Arnon Herring and Sian Granot-Zilberstein will act, dance and sing alternatively with Avi Kushnir (as Billy’s father), Oshri Cohen (as his brother), Dafna Dekel (as Billy’s dance teacher) and Dina Doron (as the grandmother).
Dekel plays the assertive yet sensitive dance teacher who encourages Billy to fulfill his destiny and become a professional dancer. She says she is very happy to return to the stage for this part. “This is a very challenging musical that combines a strong story with wonderful music.”
The musical hits all the right notes, both dramatically and musically, with Elton John’s score played by a live orchestra and a cast of 48 actors, most of them young dancers who play Elliot’s classmates at the dance academy.
Groisman says that one of their problems was making a story about a remote town in northeast England relevant to the Israeli audience.
“Billy Elliot is not only about the struggle of the miners but also about the power of art to change a life,” he says. “This is relevant everywhere, especially here and now, when many Israelis struggle to keep their jobs and make ends meet.”
Eli Bizawii, who wrote the Hebrew lyrics and story, says it was very important for him to stay true to the original English lyrics.
“I am convinced that the distance between the coal miners’ strike and our problems here will only make the message shine through. I am sure that the audience will be able to make the connection and relate to the story,” he says.‘Billy Elliot the Musical’ will run in June and July at the new City Hall at the Cinema City Ramat Hasharon. For more details and reservations, go to www.billyelliot.co.il.