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Published by The Journal Record – Read original article here.

Originally published on August 5, 2015

Around Town: Strife, joy filled stage

What a wonderful mixture of strife (workers on strike) and joy (a 12-year-old boy chooses ballet over boxing). That’s what’s happening onstage at Civic Center Music Hall this week, thanks to Lyric Theatre and its artist director, Michael Baron, who chose to bring the Tony Award-winning musical Billy Elliot to Oklahoma City.

A special congrats to Ashley Wells, Lyric’s associate artistic director, who directed the musical, and Amy Reynolds-Reed, who choreographed the exciting and sometimes humorous play.

With the plot of a small English town of laborers facing a strike and a boy who wants to do ballet rather than box, Billy Elliot first was a hit film and then an even better hit as a stage musical. Kudos to Rena Cook, who taught the cast excellent British accents.

Brooks Landegger‘s Billy is touching as he hides this choice of career from his dad, portrayed by Christopher Bloch, who is absolutely opposed to a dancing son. The two were humorous but serious in their choices – until Billy wins, after his ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, a role played extremely well by Lyn Cramer, stands up for the youngster.

She is the town’s director of a school of dance. Her students range in age from girls who can barely yet walk to teenagers who are learning well. Cramer, who’s choreographed and directed for Lyric shows for 24 years, is perfect, sassy, strong, funny and talented. Good to have her back on the Lyric stage.

Darren Drone, as her pianist and associate, Mr. Braitewaite, is played joyfully and impishly (although he really must weigh a lot!). At the play’s end, every character, including him, appears onstage wearing a colorful net tutu. The opening-night audience loved it and would not stop clapping so the cast could go home.

Keeping the humor in the musical is Brenda Williams, in the role of Grandma, who dances and prances wonderfully with the entire male cast.

Landegger is realistic as a young boy trying to explain to his family and friends about the thrill of ballet – and showing his dancing talent and encouraging others to try other careers than those in a factory town in northern England.

Billy Elliot will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available.

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