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Elton John dons a tutu as 'Billy Elliot' opens on Broadway

November 14, 2008 | 10:02 am


"Billy Elliot," the heartwarming story of a young English boy in a downtrodden mining town who dreams of being a ballet dancer, made its way to Broadway with a starry opening Thursday. The musical — staged by Stephen Daldry, who also directed the film on which the show was based — has been a blockbuster hit in London and Australia.

Among those in attendance at Broadway's Imperial Theatre was "Billy Elliot" composer Elton John, who donned a tutu at the curtain call.

Here's what the critics had to say, followed by red-carpet photos.

Billy_elliot_dance_3 Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times, who liked the show in London, wasn't enamored of the New York production, saying: "The poor motherless Elliot home doesn’t stand a chance against all the bullying showmanship. But equally problematic is the way the cast never coalesces into a believable North England family."

Ben Brantley of the New York Times raved that "this show both artfully anatomizes and brazenly exploits the most fundamental and enduring appeal of musicals."

"American audiences would have no trouble connecting with the universal sentiment of this bittersweet dual celebration of community and individuality," says David Rooney of Variety, who found "Elton John's songs are more often serviceable than memorable."

Likewise, Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune called the musical "a sentimental, inspiring, thrilling show that treats the arts as both an escape hatch and a key component of human hope." But, he adds, "its collection of Elton John pop songs are chirpy and likable but hardly transcendent."

The usually harsh John Simon of Bloomberg surprises with: "A show's claim to offer 'something for everyone' usually signals disaster: the lowest common denominator and the antithesis of art. Well, for once, the exception proves true: 'Billy Elliot' ... really does have something for everyone, and that something is, gloriously, art."

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout writes, "Musicals, of course, don't have to be surprising to be good. What counts is craftsmanship, of which 'Billy Elliot' has some, and emotional truth, of which it has none whatsover."

Opening-night photos follow....


Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor


Rachel Weisz


Kevin Spacey


Ron Howard and Cheryl Alley Howard


Natasha Richardson and sons


Rosie O'Donnell and son Parker


Los Angeles Police Department chief William Bratton and his wife, Rikki Klieman


Tennis great Billie Jean King


John Stamos


Vogue Editor Anna Wintour


Barbara Walters


Designer Valentino


Tina Brown


David Furnish and Elton John, before the show


Elton John and "Billy Elliot" lyricist Lee Hall at the curtain call

--Lisa Fung

Top photo: Curtain call for "Billy Elliot." Credit: Scott Wintrow / Getty Images

Bottom photo: Trent Kowalik, one of three actors who plays Billy, and Ballet Girls in "Billy Elliot." Credit: Alastair Muir

Photos of Natasha Richardson and William Bratton by Stuart Ramson / Associated Press

All other red-carpet photos by Scott Wintrow / Getty Images