Michigan boy shares lead in “Billy Elliot the Musical” now at the Fisher


Photo courtesy of Kyle Froman
Kylend Hetherington (second from left) of Auburn Hills, one of four boys playing Billy in the current tour of “Billy Elliot the Musical,” performed opening night in Detroit. The Tony Award-winning musical runs now through Sept. 16 at the Fisher Theatre. Also performing aree Leah Hocking (left) as dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson and Annelise Ritacca (right) as a ballet girl.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Actor Kylend Hetherington, 11, of Auburn Hills, one of four boys playing Billy in the national Broadway touring company of “Billy Elliot the Musical” played the role Sept. 4, opening night, to an enthusiastic crowd at the Fisher Theatre.

The show runs now through Sept. 16 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. For tickets and more information, call (313) 871-1132 or go to www.BroadwayinDetroit.com. Tickets are also available through Ticketmaster.

The show is set in 1984 in northern England during a bitter coal strike that pitted miners against the government. Amidst deprivation and turmoil, a young motherless boy stumbles out of a boxing ring at a local community center and into a ballet class and discovers an unexpected talent that could change his entire life.

With music by Elton John, the show is wonderfully realistic in its portrayal of the tough life of coal miners in northern England in 1984 who fought to save their industry in the face of Margaret Thatcher’s determination to end state ownership of the industry and to dismantle the union.

The show uses unique staging to tell its story, including dramatic use of shadow during some scenes, and a fierce blending of strikers, riot police and dancers with a raw and visceral energy.

Tap dance, used as often as ballet throughout the play, uses the loud, metallic percussiveness to full advantage.

An incredible dream sequence, in which Billy flies through the air with the adult dancer he could become, is breathtaking.

Sam Poon as Michael, Billy’s young friend, is marvelous as his adventurous friend who helps Billy accept his unexpected, gender-defying talent.

Sasha Ely-Judkins, as Mrs. Wilkinson, is memorable as the weary, cigarette smoking small-town dance teacher startled to discover an unexpected prodigy in her midst.

“Billy Elliot the Musical” is less a show about ballet and more about accepting one’s talent or calling in whatever unexpected form in may take. It is also set in a time of turmoil, and deals with a community forced to accept change in the way they earn a living in a world turned upside down.

The show is sentimental in a blue-collar way – heartwarming without becoming too maudlin and endearing without being forced.

Set in a community losing its way of life, it is encouraging to see how they support each other and a young boy with an unorthodox and unexpected talent. Throw in the powerful dancing, strong company acting and wonderful music and you have a memorial show worthy of its multiple Tony Awards.

BIELANIEC IN “A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS”
Kori Bielaniec of Livonia, a local actress and governor at the Players Guild of Dearborn, plays Lady Margaret More in “A Man for all Seasons” Sept. 7 to 9 and 14 to 16 at the Village Players of Birmingham. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees.

Bielaniec delighted Guild audiences last spring as Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz” at the Guild.

“A Man for all Seasons” focuses on Sir Thomas More’s refusal to support Henry the VIII’s break from the church in Rome so he could remarry. For more information, call (248) 644-2075 or go to www.birminghamvillageplayers.com/productions/a-man-for-all-seasons.

GUILD OPENS 85th SEASON FRIDAY
The Players Guild of Dearborn opens its 85th season Friday with Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderson’s “Dracula,” a stage play based on the Bram Stoker novel. The show opened on Broadway in 1927, the year the Players Guild of Dearborn put on its first show.

The show, directed by Dearborn resident, off-Broadway playwright and local teacher Paul Bruce, runs three weekends, Sept. 14 to 30, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees.

For tickets or more information, call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

HILBERRY OPENS 50TH SEASON WITH AGATHA CHRISTIE’S “THE MOUSETRAP”
Wayne State University kicks off the graduate Hilberry Theatre Company’s 50th season with Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.” The show is the longest running play of all time, having run continuously since 1952 in London’s West End.

The murder mystery thriller shows what happens to a houseful of snowbound travelers at Monkswell Manor, who begin to die at the hands of an unknown assassin for their alleged crimes.

Local actor Christopher Call, of Detroit, who began his college stage career at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, is now in his second year as an actor with the WSU graduate Hilberry Company. He plays the pivotal role of Detective Sergeant Trotter.

“The Mousetrap” runs Sept. 21 to Oct. 13 at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass at Hancock in Detroit.

For tickets or more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to www.hilberry.com.

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