Reviews

With one of the all-time best creative teams in the area coupled with a strong cast, Venice Theatre’s current MainStage production of “Billy Elliot the Musical” is one terrific don’t miss theatrical offering.

Few community theaters could even begin to tackle such a project, but with its annual budget approaching $2.9 million and staff of nearly 30 professionals, “Billy Elliot the Musical” is just another challenge for the number one community theater (per capita) in the United States. It starts with Tim Wisgerhof’s set that evokes a coal-mining town in 1980’s England when Margaret Thatcher was determined to crush the state-controlled coal industry in that country. This is not the setting where one would expect a young man to want to be a dancer.

He is from a coal-mining family in a coal-mining community during one of the most stressful times for those people. There is barely enough money for food let alone dance lessons. Young men in these families will go down into the mines as their fathers and grandfathers before them. They do not dance, not even tap let alone ballet.

Yet that is the dream of Billy Elliot (Patrick Higgins the night of Nov. 8). Alternating with Higgins in the lead role is Carson Maschmeier. Matthew M. Ryder is Dad, the long-suffering parent and coal miner with Peg Harvey as the delightfully outrageous Grandma and Patrick Tancey as brother Tony who is just plain outraged that his little brother would choose to dance.

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Carson Maschmeier (left) and Patrick Higgins (right) are having a great time sharing the role of Billy Elliot at Venice Theatre. PHOTO BY RENEE MCVETY

He must follow in his father’s footsteps because that is what people in that social class did. Grandma adds some delightful surprises at various times. That, too, is delightful – little bits and pieces here and there that change the show’s pace and add spice.

Chaz Glunk portrays Older Billy/Miner with incredible style, befitting his background as professional dancer. The Swan Lake number featuring the older and younger Billy is one of the highlights of the show, especially when the younger Billy flies through the air and then is spun like a top in the air.

On Broadway, a smoke machine added drama to this bit. Add costumes by Nicholas Hartman, lighting by John Michael Andzulis and direction by Thomas DeWayne Barrett, sound by Dorian Boyd and Jaclyn Ledoux for the show of the year of this or any year at most any theater, amateur or professional.

Venice Theatre’s cast numbers include [39] in addition to Billy. There is plenty of fine dancing from ballet numbers to a very funny tap routine by Brian Finnerty as Mr. Braithwaite, who is a bit pudgy and a lot funny.

Bridgit Carly Marsh portrays Debbie Wilkinson, who charms the audience with her attraction to Billy. The miner/cops include Matt Domemann, Mark Menezes, Dakota Murrell, Beckett Pfanmiller, Brian Stube and Nethaneel Williams.

And then there is the curtain call. In their zeal to be first in line for their cars at the valet stand, at least one couple missed it. It is delightful so make sure you sit through the blackout, which signals the end of the show.

Also delightful is Judah Woomert as Michael Caffrey, who wants to be more than a casual friend to Billy. His dance number in a girl’s white tutu is too, too funny.

“Billy Elliot, the Musical” continues Eve and Thanksgiving. For tickets, call the theatre at 941-488-11l5 or visit VeniceStage.com.

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