We made the most of our four day Labor Day weekend, and packed
it full of fun. Thursday night we checked out
Broadway in Chicago's production of Billy
Elliot at the gorgeous Ford Center For The Performing
Arts, Oriental Theatre. I'm not a huge fan of musicals,
except the dark, macabre and quirky kind. So, of
course we all thoroughly enjoyed this one.
The kids loved the music and dance, especially the life
sized dancing dresses. Sagezilla and Du-Jay
were especially captivated, since the cast includes
a number of children, not much older than they
are. It was a highlight of our evening to
meet Billy, J.P. Viernes, who is only fourteen and did a
phenomenal job. He's been dancing for seven years
and trades off with five other boys to play
the title roll.
The story line is a great blue collar saga, set during
the UK Miner's Strike of 1984-1985. There are timeless
threads of struggle and love, poverty and passion, strong
women and hard working men, with ingrained gender and class
expectations. It's a tale of solidarity, community,
family and the over arching message of "be yourself" that
ultimately trumps all. Billy may have
lost his Mother at a young age, but she still plays an
active role in his thoughts, and he takes her words to
That said, this is not a musical for the uptight, conservative
parent. If you don't want your children exposed to
swearing miners, cross dressing little boys, heavy class war
themes, and men in tutus, then this is not the musical for
you. For the rest of you, we highly recommend
Billy Elliot. There is a lot
of colorful language, but it's spoken in such a heavy English
working class accent, there's little chance your littles will get
in trouble, even if a "for fook sake" pops out of their mouths in
We love getting dressed up and going downtown to the theeatah,
Dahlink. The setting couldn't be better.
This was Sagezilla and Du-Jay's first visit to The Oriental Theatre
and they adored the ornate ceiling and walls. We had a
blast playing I spy games while we waited for the show to
start. The kids found a dragon, seahorse elephants,
exotic faces, griffins, and other mythical beasts.
The last time I was at The Oriental Theatre solo, I got in the
theme of things and completed my outfit with a funky
purse designed to look just like an oversized Chinese
take out container. It became a fashion accessory and
amusing performance art, as box office staff, and three ushers all
in turn told me "You can't bring food in here." I
had to ask them to challenge their knee jerk perceptions
and tell me when they'd last seen left overs with a
This time around, we all laughed at many points
during Billy Elliot and were
completely charmed by the characters and story line.
The biggest laugh of all, though, came after the
show. It was pouring rain after the final curtain
call, and we made a mad dash down the street to an after party at
The Wit Hotel. In the final block before our
destination, we were waiting at the light when a cab cut it too
close to the flooded curb and caused an impressive "Urban Tsunami"
that entirely drenched our friend and other writers standing on the
We had programs and bags over our heads as makeshift umbrellas,
and we were all already soaked to the bones anyway. As we
caught each others' eyes, we all dissolved in fits of
laughter. Of course, we try to teach our kids empathy,
and discourage them from engaging in schadenfreude,
or pleasure derived from the misfortunes of
others. However, there are some moments life throws at
you, when all you can do is laugh.
Winner of ten 2009 Tony Awards incliding BEST MUSICAL,
Billy Elliot is a joyous, exciting and
feel-good celebration of one boy following his heart and making his
dreams come true. Billy
Elliot features music by Elton John, and is based on
the international smash-hit film.
If you've been thinking about checking it out, now is a
great time. Kids go free through September 16th, any
Tuesday through Thursday with purchase of a full
price adult ticket. Use the code KIDSFREE online
or in person. Kids tickets are valid for ages 14
and under, and are subject to availability.
For more information visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a writer-photographer-potter-painter-actress-animal wrangler-general creatrix and Mama to two amazing kiddos.
See more of Bonnie's stories here.
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