For its second production of the season, Ogunquit Playhouse is staging a new rendition of the Tony Award-winning musical Billy Elliot. It’s a bold undertaking for the playhouse, and director BT McNicholl and choreographer Adam Pelty succeed in delivering a musical that’s electrifying – especially considering the challenges they faced in production.

Ogunquit initially planned on staging the Broadway production, complete with the original costumes and set. Just three months prior to opening the show, the playhouse was informed that would not longer be possible. Everything had been packed up and shipped back to London, where the musical had originated.

Undeterred, the playhouse enlisted Campbell Baird, Dustin Cross and Jack Mehler to quickly design an all-new set, create the costumes and provide lighting design. The final product is well worth the effort.

When seeing this production, it’s hard to believe Pelty only had nine days to teach the 33-member cast the choreography. The complex “Solidarity” and the high-flying ballet sequence after “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher” are awe-inspiring.

“Billy Elliot” is set in the northeast of England in the 1980s, during the coal miner strikes. In adapting the production for Ogunquit, McNicholl opted to tone down the politics and soften the profanity, without sacrificing the harsh reality of the period piece.

Dialect coach Lester Thomas Shane has done a superb job helping the cast master the heavy brogue and Baird’s set adds grittiness with blackened buildings and the ever-present mine looming in the distance.

Having been on strike for a year, the miners are barely surviving, which makes their sacrifice to help Billy Elliot achieve his dream to dance ballet immensely touching in the song “He Could Go and He Could Shine.”

The Elliot family has become disconnected after losing mum, played by Elysia Jordan. Armand Schultz, who performed the role on the first national tour, is moving as the overwhelmed dad. And Anthony Festa brings angry passion as the oldest son, Tony.

Noah Parets and Sam Faulkner will share the role of Billy Elliot throughout the run at Ogunquit. The matinée performance on June 28th starred Parets. The young actor is a veteran in the role, having performed it on the 2012-2013 national tour. His experience is apparent, whether he is gliding across the stage in sync with his older self, played by the sensational Stephen Hanna, or mixing it up with tap dance numbers. It’s an unbelievable sight to watch Parets and Greg McCormick Allen, as Mr. Braithwaite, tap dance while jumping rope on “Born to Boogie.” And “Expressing Yourself” is a dancing extravaganza, with the delightfully cast Alec Shiman as Billy’s flamboyant friend, Michael.

Anastasia Barzee gives a memorable performance as Billy’s dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson. She’s a triple threat, dancing, singing and bringing genuine tough love to the role.

“Billy Elliot” is a poignant, yet hopeful, story about rising above adversity. With a focus on family, it reminds the audience of the life-changing effect a family’s support can have. Ogunquit Playhouse’s rendition skillfully weaves all aspects of Billy’s life into a breathtaking display of song and dance.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle

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