A phalanx of gigantic moving trucks with sides painted top to bottom with the giant logo for “Billy Elliott the Musical” began queuing up to the main entrance of Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center in the cold, clear afternoon today as a sold-out audience was still filing out of the final performance, a matinee, of the Tony Award-winning musical ending a month-long run in the nation’s capital.
Heads up, Cincinnati! The trucks head there on Tuesday for a 10-day run starting Thursday. Having been in the likes of Denver, San Francisco, St. Louis, Rochester and Philadelphia already, the tour continues into this coming September with stops, after Cincinnati, in Pittsburgh, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Boston.
With the U.S. flagship production on Broadway closing a week ago – ending a run since November 2008 of 1,304 performances before 1,659,867 people – the tour is now what’s left in the U.S. of the stunning production, whose Broadway version won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2009 and 10 Tony Awards, overall. Long-running versions in New York, London (beginning in 2005), Sydney and Toronto, in addition to the tour versions, have played overall to 7.5 million people.The musical, with music by Elton John, the story and lyrics by Lee Hall and directed by Stephen Daltry, is based on the 2000 film, “Billy Elliott,” that was nominated for three Academy Awards.
In today’s finale of the D.C.leg of the tour, the sold-out audience was treated to the first-ever performance of the main role of Billy – the inspired English boy who grows up in a mining town wanting to study ballet against the pressures of his family and community – by a 12-year-old from Minnesota named Zach Manske.
Since 2005 in venues all over the world, there have been many a talented dancer and performer to fill the shoes of Billy, including the three who shared the 2009 Tony for best actor. There are five sharing the role on the current tour, and today marked the debut of young Manske in the role.
That was announced just before the opening curtain, adding a whole new level of anticipation and enthusiasm for the show, overall. As young Mansky sailed through the first half, and then outdid himself in the dream-like ballet duet to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” the audience began roaring its approval. By the end, he received a rousing standing ovation, an apt sendoff to what will no doubt be many a performance as the tour proceeds in the coming months.