It’s hard to think about how profoundly something can affect you, and it’s even harder to think about that affect when that something comes to an end, leaving behind nothing but the memories you hope and pray will never fade. On January 8, 2012, a journey ended, and with this ending, as with all endings, came the time of pensive thought, a time when one asks, “Was the journey actually worth it?” On January 8, Billy Elliot the Musical played its final performance on Broadway. But this finale didn’t mean an end for just the cast and crew and all of the others involved with the clockwork game of Billy Elliot, but an end for all of those who, even though they weren’t on stage performing or backstage making sure that all of the cogs and wheels of the show stayed running, came to call the Imperial Theatre their home, and who came to love every aspect of Billy Elliot: its powerful and emotional story, its breathtakingly beautiful dance numbers, its rib-tickling humor, and its unparalleled ability to elicit powerful emotions from its patrons, feelings its audiences may never have known existed inside them.
For me, this journey began on January 30, 2010, a day that was undoubtedly one of the most momentous days in my life. On this day, I traveled to New York City, and the only thing on my agenda was seeing Billy Elliot the Musical that night. Now, I had an extremely limited knowledge of the production, for I had seen only the movie, and I hadn’t looked up anything about the show because I didn’t want to suspend my disbelief with precognition. And, I’ll admit, somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that Billy Elliot may possibly let me down, for I didn’t think the show could possibly live up to the built-up expectations I had made in my head. But boy was I wrong. From the moment the stars began looking down, I was transported to the world of northeastern England, a world where one boy fervidly yearns to escape his predestined fate of the mines to become a ballet dancer. This world was filled with a myriad of ebbs and flows, joined together by the playful love of a “drunken” grandmother, a staunchly strong-willed Mrs. Wilkinson, and the unforgettable memory of a warmhearted mother, a mother who always urged her son to be himself and to always be true to who he is. This message was further exemplified by Billy’s dad, a man who must give up his long-held belief of “puffish dancers” to realize his son could be a star and shine, if only given the chance to live and escape the fading twilight of a long since dying town.
And even though I had doubts as to whether or not Billy Elliot would be as good as I thought it would be, these doubts were soon swept away just as quickly as the thin layer of powdery snow that falls on Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Wilkinson in the second act. By the time the curtain fell, I had undergone an emotional roller coaster: solemnity during “The Stars Look Down,” laughing out loud during “Grandma’s Song,” doleful during “The Letter,” and utterly elated during “Electricity.” And just as the small flame from a single match pierces the darkness at the beginning of the show, a tiny spark had lit a flame inside me, a flame that will never fade, just like all of the wonderful memories I’ve received from Billy Elliot will never evaporate from my mind. And even though the set is struck, the seats lay empty, tap shoes are boxed, pointe shoes retired, the curtain is down, and the Billy Elliot sign is unlit, all of the good times, all of the remembrances, and all of the fun, joy, laughs, and tears will continue on forever in the hearts and minds of those who have come to see Billy Elliot as something much more than just a fanciful story about an eleven-year-old boy who wants to dance, but as a beacon of hope and elation calling out to those who may have lost their way, or who just simply love the show for what it’s done to them.
Musical theatre is something that can touch people in a way that no other medium in the world can, and Billy Elliot is no exception, for it did several things for me. First, it taught me that passion comes from nowhere else but from within; it’s something that sparks inside us and sets us free to fly, to soar, and to dream. Second, it solidified my love of theatre and inspired me to pursue a career as an actor so that I may give to others the same awe-inspiring and unforgettable emotions Billy Elliot has given me. Third, it showed me the power that something as small as a three-hour show can have, for Billy Elliot transcended barriers and brought together a group of people from across the United States and from ten different countries to share a night of magic and respect for the show I, and countless others, have come to love. And finally, it showed me that no matter how large or small you are, all you really have to do is follow your heart, believe in yourself, and shine.
And now, just as the Imperial Theatre grows dark, leaving behind all of the memories from the past three plus years to be ingrained forever within the theatre’s walls, I, too, wrap up my journey with Billy Elliot the Musical on Broadway. And as I type these last few words, I guess the only thing that’s left to say is … See ya, Billy. I hope to see you soon.