Two fun shows I forgot to write about, or, a Blind Date with Billy Elliot

In February I went to Rebecca Northan’s show Blind Date at the Club/Rice space at the Citadel Theatre.  I giggled a lot, but I guess I didn’t have anything pressing to say about it and it slipped out of the posting queue of my brain.  Like a real blind date, it was unexpected, occasionally awkward and embarrassing, and kind of sweet.

The show played last year around Valentine’s Day as well.  The concept is that the main character, named Mimi, asks someone from the audience to participate in the play as her date.  In the performance I saw, the participant was a very good sport and amusing fellow named Travis.  There were also several minor characters; I can’t find my program to give proper credits but my notes say they were played by Jamie and Christian.

I think it might be a fun show to see more than once, to see how much it varies with a different participant.  It would also be fun to do gender-flipped or with a same-sex date.

In late March, I saw the Broadway Across Canada production of Billy Elliot at the Jubilee Auditorium.  I was lucky that I hadn’t got an opening-night ticket, as the first night performance got cancelled due to some of the trucks of properties got delayed at the border due to the snowstorm.  The production travels with four actors taking turns as Billy, and two as Michael.  We saw Mitchell Tobin (age 12) as Billy.  The movie Billy Elliot, which came before the musical, overlaps in my memory with The Full Monty, Brassed Off!, and Kinky Boots as a genre of late 1990s-early 2000s comedies about working class people in England coping with hard financial times in creative ways – and the musical is the same story with an Elton John score.  (That reminds me – am I the only person entertained by the bizarrely detailed genre categories that Netflix comes up with as it tries to work out what else I’d like to watch based on what I’ve seen so far?)

The show was polished, fun, and touching.  There was at least as much wooden-chair choreography as in a production of Spring Awakening.  In one particularly surreal dance number, there was a chorus of striking miners and a chorus of police with riot shields, sharing the stage with a crowd of little girl ballet dancers.  The miners’-families Christmas party scene included some puppets like the Spitting Image political-caricatures.

I was disturbed that I had no recollection of the miners’ strike portrayed in the show at the time it was happening, even though background reading for the show illustrated its monstrous import in destroying coal mining in Britain.  And although the show illustrates the excitement and determination of the new strikers, and the persistence and sacrifice as they held out, later history showed their efforts to be as heartbreakingly futile as those of the 1832 Paris Uprising shown in the plot events of Les Misérables.

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