With only one more show left in the Civic Center season, I thought it’d be cool if we took some time each day to learn a few neat things about the upcoming production of BILLY ELLIOT with the help of our dramaturg Colby. For instance, did you know the musical is an adaptation from a movie- which was originally titled “Dancer”? Did you also know one of the original creators of the original musical production is Elton John? Honestly, how often can you see a Tony award winning musical with an original score by Elton John!
It is his multifaceted storytelling through song that has made BILLY ELLIOT one of the most beloved musicals to this day. Something else that you might find interesting is the fact that Elton John said he completed the songs for the musical in 2 weeks! Elton said, “It’s quite easy for me I think because once I start, it’s all easy to pour out…. I wanted to prove a point that I could make what was already a fantastical movie into a better musical; even better onstage.” Check out how Elton got involved in the project plus bios of Elton John and Lee Hall down below.
The original film, simply called “Dancer”, was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France, and then go on to gradually open in both England and the United States under the new name of BILLY ELLIOT. Coincidentally, Elton John was in the audience for the initial (film) screening at Cannes. He first discussed with Hall (screenwriter) about the possibility of collaborating together on a musical adaptation that very night. On the matter of writing the musical with Elton John, Hall states:
“We had an immediate rapport starting with the first song and just kept going till the end. Elton’s music surprised me. Somehow he managed to tap into all sorts of traditions of songs that had huge resonance with the working class culture I was writing about. Hymns, the songs of male voice choirs, folk songs, and the kind of rock and roll beloved of working men’s clubs were all flooding out. I realized that what we were creating was a form of musical that had a particularly British heritage going back to music hall…where song, folk dance, politics and gritty humor all came together in the proud working-class tradition of ‘a good night out’. Although we never discussed any of this consciously, Elton had understood that tradition and had thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of us to create a musical that was truly British, that would be rough, lyrical, funny, and moving in equal measure.”
Interview of Elton John with Katie Couric on BILLY ELLIOT:
Sir Elton John(1947- present) is an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter who hails from the Pinner area of London. His first album, “Elton John”, was released in 1970. Since then, he has gone on to collaborate on many different projects spanning music entertainment, film, and Broadway. He is also known for his collaborations as the songwriter for one of Disney’s most successful films, The Lion King.
His credits for the Musical Theatre include a revised original score for THE LION KING, and AIDA, with the latter winning him a Tony Award for Best Score. He has also received Grammy Awards for these projects, as well as an Academy Award. Aside from his contributions to entertainment, Elton John has raised over $300 million in support of HIV/AIDS prevention and support services, making it one of the highest contributing charities toward the cause.
Today, BILLY ELLIOT serves as Sir Elton John’s most politically charged work, effectively capturing the dying-off of an era of industry. His storytelling capabilities through music went on to help the musical win the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2009.
Lee Hall (1966-present) is a playwright and screenwriter from Newcastle, England. He is best known for writing the screenplay to the 2000 British film, “Billy Elliot”, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Other credits include adaptations for film such as Pride and Prejudice and War Horse. For the theatre, Mr. Hall has also adapted the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love into a play by the same name. Today, BILLY ELLIOT stands as his most layered piece of storytelling. Having drawn inspiration from the presence of the UK Coal Miner’s Strike of 1984-85 in his childhood, Hall crafted a story focused on community who must brace for change. Focusing specifically on a fictitious mining town in North-East England, he was able to evoke the feeling of a rough and rugged society on the edge of collapse. His themes of hope and securing a better future for the next generation ensure the longevity of the story.
Hall,Lee.Adaptation-BillyElliotTheMusical. BillyElliotTheMusicalOfficialLondonSite.BillyLondonLimited,2011. Web. 20 July 2015.
Material in this blog gathered by BILLY ELLIOT Dramaturg Colby Frederick.