Review: ‘Billy Elliot the Musical’ at West Potomac High School’s Beyond the Page Theatre Company

West Potomac High School’s Beyond the Page Theatre Company gave us the “old razzle dazzle” in their production of Billy Elliot the Musical, with music by Elton John, and the book and lyrics by Lee Hall.

Billy Elliot the Musical, based on the 2000 film by the same name, follows the story of young Billy Elliot and his struggles of learning that there is nothing wrong with “Expressing Yourself.” Billy learns he loves ballet and even with a controlling father and brother, he can find escape and joy in dancing.

Michael (Grant Hamilton) and Billy (Franco Cabanas). Photo by Lily Vita.

Astonishing the crowd as the title role was sixth grader, Franco Cabanas. From his incredible acting, killer vocals and jaw-dropping dance skills, Cabanas is the ultimate triple threat. He is able to really show the transformation Billy goes through from the skeptical boy in “Shine” to the powerful, strong and smart young man in “Angry Dance” as well as in “Electricity.”

Although this is a high school performance, Billy Elliot featured not only Cabanas but three other young, neighborhood boys; Grant Hamilton as Michael, Charlie Ruppe as Tall Boy/Posh Boy and Micah Griffin as Small Boy. All of these boys’ effortless fit in to the production and added to the professionalism of the show. Hamilton really showed off his vocals with Cabanas in the crowd favorite number “Expressing Yourself,” featuring giant dancing dresses (hats off to Costume/Makeup Designer, Kaylie Kopicki).

Dancing is crucial to the development of Billy Elliot, staring as Billy’s dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson was the lovely Adrianna DeLorenzo, leading the band of ballet girls (featuring the talents of Natalie Edwards, Madison Harden, Paige Edwards, Halley Roy, Anna Penkiunas, Lindsay Johnson, Helen Kitrosser, Grace Perkins, Hannah Nobles, Madison Eaton, Willa Denton, Emily Madden, Sheridan Phalen, Jade Han, Hannah Roverse and Carolyn Bloom). With hilarious numbers such as “Shine”, “Solidarity” and “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher”, the ballet girls really lit up the stage with their enthusiasm and, of course, dance abilities. Along with the ballet girls was Josh Stein as the comedic Mr. Braithwaite, he also wowed the audience with his beautiful and technical dancing as Older Billy.

Ballet Girl, Natalie Edwards portrayed Mrs. Wilkinson’s daughter Debbie (as well as co-choreographed the production with Gennifer Diflippo), her stand out comedic moments with Billy really showed the childish side of the characters that could often be overlooked, due the hard times Billy has to get through during the production. Edwards is no stranger to the Billy Elliot, after portraying a ballet girl in the US National Tour. Other ballet girl standouts include the comedic roles of the always eating, Tracey Atkinson and “spastic starfish” Susan Parks performed by Madison Eaton and Willa Denton, respectively.

Miss Wilkerson (Adrianna DeLorenzo) and Billy( Franco Cabanas). Photo by Lily Vita.

Billy’s family; Dad (Jonathan Barger), Tony (Tony Lemus), Grandma (Frankie Mananzan) and Dead Mum (Kat Amato) all played different parts in Billy and his growing up. Barger and Lemus were able to show the harsh, realistic and struggle that the family had to face, especially in “Solidarity.” To the change and acceptance in Barger’s heart wrenching song “Deep in the Ground” and in “Once We Were Kings.” While Mananzan brought laughter into the family with her comedic scenes, as well as gave Billy advice and insight into her past in “Grandma’s Song.” While Amato brought hope and love to Billy from beyond the grave. Amato’s trio with DeLorenzo and Cabanas, “The Letter” was angelic and heartwarming and really showcased all three of their vocals. Working alongside with the Elliot family was Sam Davidson as the passionate and headstrong Big Davey, as well as loving father to Small Boy, he really shown in his moments on stage.

With the theme of the show being centered around Billy’s love for dance, the team choreographers (Gennifer Diflippo, Peelee Clark, and Natalie Edwards) had their work cut out for them. Featuring tap in “Expressing Yourself” and “Angry Dance”, ballet in “Shine,” “Solidarity,” and “Swan Lake,” and jazz in “Born to Boogie,” and “Electricity” as well as featured roller skaters and an acrobat; this production really covers all of the bases. All of the numbers were effortless and showcased each actors’ strengths. The team trained Cabanas and Hamilton all throughout the summer, as well as offered additional ballet classes for the students to bring them up to the level of profession dance this production needs. All this extra work can be shown with how flawlessly all of the numbers are executed.
Billy (Franco Cabanas) with ballet girls. Photo by Lily Vita.
I’ve always been impressed with Beyond the Page’s technical aspects and this show was no different. Projections (by Sam Davidson, consulted by Dan Deiter) set the time era of the show which really got the audience in the mood and understood the political standpoints during the production. The lighting (designed by Jessica Steadman and Kayla Claussen) lit up the stage with traveling lights and strobe lights. At times however, the actors were in the dark, whether or not that was the actors not getting to their mark or a miss from the lighting crew, it happened minimally and did not take away from the scene. Sound (designed by Victoria de Dios) also had a couple of glitches but with as many mics on stage it was incredibly impressive that all the actors could be heard at all times. One of the craziest aspects of this production was the flying during “Swan Lake” run by the flying crew of Ella Moore, Logan Claussen and Will Schless. As well as creative marketing platforms run by Lily Vita and Emily Lyon, for the past few months every time I open a social media or drive through my neighborhood there is always a sign, ad, video or picture up for the production, which helped sell the show out on Friday night!

Of course this huge production could not have been done without the vision of Director and Assistant Choreographer: Peelee Clark, Music Director: Cathy Manley, Dialect Coach: Mark Lee Adams and Stage Managers: Emily Lyon and Elaina Phalen. Effortlessly bringing this story to the stage for audience members young and old to enjoy.

Beyond the Page Theatre Company’s production of Billy Elliot the Musical is not one to miss, it’s heartwarming and passionate story is one audience members of all ages will enjoy. Be warned though; it gives you the urge to dust off your dancing shoes and boogie!

Running Time: Two hours and 40 minutes, with one 20-minute intermission.

Billy Elliot the Musical plays through May 6, 2017, at West Potomac High School, Springbank Auditorium- 6500 Quander Road in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, purchase them online.