Billy Elliot musical is a whizz
RICHARD PARR Richard Parr goes way out West and is dancing for joy after seeing the smash-hit musical Billy Elliot.
Everyone loves the lavish West End musicals and a trip to London with an overnight stay in a smart hotel can be a real treat and makes an ideal birthday or Christmas present.
There is currently a wonderful selection of shows to choose from and I was lucky enough to see the award-winning hit show Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace.
To say it took my breath away would be an understatement - it was absolutely fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone who loves big, bold stage musicals.
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This show has everything - comedy, pathos, and a good story but, be warned, some scenes will bring tears to your eyes as it did for myself and many of the people I was sitting near.
Billy Elliot is very different from anything I had seen in the West End. It works because people can relate to the young lead character who has to fight against the traditional Northern values and beliefs of his working-class father and brother to follow the path he wants to take in the world of ballet.
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It's a story that will tug at your heartstrings but give you plenty to laugh about at the same time. If you are easily offended by bad language it won't be for you but the swearing is very much part of the overall plot.
The music for the stage show is by Sir Elton John and he has admitted that watching the cinema version, on which the stage show is based, was to change his life.
He says that his response to the film was profound.
The story of young Billy, a gifted working-class boy with artistic ambitions seemingly beyond his reach, had many parallels with the music supremo's own childhood.
"Like Billy, the opportunity to express myself artistically was a passport to a better, more fulfilling life. As a child I dreamt of a career in music, escaping into my treasured record collection for inspiration and hope."
Sir Elton says that it was the unfailing support of his mother and grandmother that helped him achieve his musical ambitions.
"With their encouragement and a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, I started building a foundation that has allowed me to rejoice in a musical career that has exceeded my wildest dreams."
He says that to see Billy literally dance his way out of the bleak and cruel environment created by the demise of the British mining industry was inspirational.
He explains that watching the premiere of the film at the Cannes Film Festival proved a life-changing experience for him.
Sir Elton admits that the film really got under his skin and he went to the after-screening party so that he could meet its director, Stephen Daldry, writer, Lee Hall and its young star, Jamie Bell.
He recalls: "Everyone was revelling in the euphoria from the screening when someone suggested that Billy Elliot would make the most amazing stage musical. I couldn't think of a project that I would want to work on more."
The rest, as they say, is history.
Later, Sir Elton was to say that he is extraordinarily proud of what Lee and he created for the stage musical version of Billy Elliot.
"The show demonstrates everything I love about the power of art. It can inspire you. It can transform lives. It can take you to places well beyond your wildest dreams."
Travelling to London from Norfolk to see one of the top West End shows like Billy Elliot is an experience to be savoured.
Add to that a stay in one of the top hotels in London and it is experience that stays with you for a long time.
After the show I returned to the four-star luxury of the De Vere Cavendish set on prestigious and famous Jermyn Street in the heart of London.
Jermyn Street, of course, is renowned for its exclusive array of gentleman's tailors and shirt-makers. Due partly to the establishment of numerous gentleman's clubs in nearby James Street, Jermyn Street attracted a loyal male following in its early retailing years. It quickly established a reputation as London's premier gentleman's grooming ground, explaining its past and present prevalence of barbers, tobacconists, tailors and wine merchants.
But there is also another national retailing treasure to be found tucked away between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street. Fortnum and Mason is a British institution boasting a fascinating history intertwined with the British Empire and the Royal Family. Its floors groan under the weight of an astonishing array of culinary treats and British delicacies, including quality teas, traditional marmalades and handmade chocolates.
But back to the hotel, which has 230 well-appointed bedrooms, each decorated in contemporary style, with some offering wonderful views over London.
The rooms have a mini-bar and 24-hour room service.
The hotel's restaurant, Aslan, offers the highest standards of cuisine with fantastic favours from around the world, complemented by an excellent wine list.
The stylish Lobby Bar and the Cocktail Bar are also ideal for a pre-theatre drink, the perfect way to start your evening at a West End theatre.
Richard Parr travelled to London for the West End theatre break as a guest of Superbreak, the UK's leading short break travel company. It offers a range of packages to see Billy Elliot that combine overnight accommodation and tickets to the show to suit all tastes and budgets. A package including a one-night stay at the four-star De Vere Cavendish Hotel in Jermyn Street on a bed-and-breakfast basis and a top-priced ticket to see the show costs £160 per person any day of the week until the end of April 2007. Superbreak can also arrange return rail travel as part of a trip to London. To book, telephone Superbreak on 01904 644455 or visit www.superbreak.com