Ballet Up To the Barre

Ballet-loving boys still face some stigma, but there’s precedent for the story of Billy Elliot, a kid raised in a rough-and-tumble English coal-mining town who longs to dance. Edward Villella, once America’s most powerful and masculine ballet star, a sex symbol before Baryshnikov reached our shores and now director of Miami City Ballet, was the son of a trucker. As a kid, he was so embarrassed to be taking dance lessons that he wore his baseball uniform to class and walked up to the studio door backwards, so he wouldn’t appear to be going in. Coming of age during the prolonged coal miners’ strike of the 1980s, facing fierce opposition from his father and older brother, young Billy has it even harder. But naturally, he fulfills his dream. And while the show is sentimental, it is also — without sugar-coating its portrait of a struggling and dying community — big, beautiful, and genuinely uplifting.

Directed by Stephen Daldry (who also directed the 2000 movie), and with music by Elton John, Billy Elliot the Musical garnered all kinds of awards, among them the Laurence Olivier Award for the 2005 West End production, and nine Tonys, including Best Musical, when it finally hit New York — to rapturous reviews — in 2009. You can expect everyone involved with the current production to be on their toes when Billy Elliot opens May 11 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex; it runs through June 5. For ticket information, call 303-893-4100 or go to
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: May 11. Continues through June 5, 2011

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman