Billy Elliott is a musical that I have had the opportunity to see many times, and yet it is one that I always ignored. This weekend, I discovered that I had been seriously missing out.
Set in the 1980s in north-eastern England during the UK miners’ strike, the story focuses on Billy Elliot, the son of a family of coal miners. Elliot develops an interest in ballet which sets the stage for a look into the complicated and intricate family dynamics that should be very familiar to families in Mexico in 2017.
The character of Billy Elliot is powered by an amazing performance from actor Ian González who played Elliot on the night The News attended. However, there are four more actors who have all received great reviews, a result of the hard work of producer Alejandro Gou, who set up the Billy Elliot Academy just for the purpose of preparing child actors from all across the country for the role.
Elliot is a kid who is being steered towards boxing by his father, but Elliot is not interested in boxing, and one day he stumbles into Mrs. Wilkinson’s ballet class, where Wilkinson recognizes Elliot’s potential and slowly turns him into a dancer, which in turn brings chaos when Elliot’s father finds out about his son’s activities.
The reaction that we see from Elliot’s dad bares a striking resemblance to the reaction of many parents and families in modern day Mexico, because Elliot’s family lives in an atmosphere of machismo that still prevails in many cultures across the world today.
I recently had a friend tell me that he didn’t want to take his one-year-old son to see this musical because he is afraid that his son might imitate the character’s behavior and might want to become a dancer. This of course is what homophobia is all about, the belief that homosexuality is something that can be learned or “absorbed” from another person or an activity. My friend very much like the character of Elliot’s father thinks that his son will want to dance and that this in turn will lead to homosexuality.
This ideology plagues our country. It is what makes many misunderstand the idea behind equality for all, which means that people should respect the way other people choose to live. Many people continue to think that behaviors and sexual preferences are contagious.
This story might be a parent’s worst nightmare or a parent’s greatest dream, but either way it will make you reconsider every aspect of what it means to be a parent and what it means to dream. The story is anchored by solid performances by the entire cast and a script that incorporates just the right amount of humor and even makes fun of itself at times.
This story doesn’t only focus on Elliot’s life but rather on the social dynamics of the working class and the struggle that comes with dreams when you were born with limited financial means. Mexican families should be able to relate to the struggle of keeping a family afloat and the problems that arise when a child wants to do something different from what his/her parents do.
There are many options that are currently available for theater and musical lovers in Mexico, however there is no other in my experience that carries such a positive message and transmits a “feel-good energy” like this musical.
Tears, laughter, joy and a celebration of what makes us human is what makes Billy Elliot a must see, and chances are you’ll be able to find tickets on the same day, so don’t let any kind of stigma, preconceptions or ideas that you might have prevent you from watching one of the best shows currently in Mexico.