You watched the movie, and when you heard that the new ASB Waterfront Theatre was going to put it on, you texted, tweeted and Facebook messaged all your friends. Well, the theatre is now open, and the musical itself is incredible.
Before I leap into my review of the show itself, I just want to mention how well-built the ASB Waterfront Theatre is: the 660-seat space is intimate and I from what I could tell, every one of those had a direct line to the stage. Seats were roomy and comfortable, and the entrances themselves provided efficient seating, unless if you happened to be in the centre-back of the stalls – having to inch yourself past more than ten people in a row is never fun.
The opening night performance had Jaxson Cook playing Billy and Stanley Reedy playing Michael, Billy’s best friend. Them, along with the other young actors, absolutely acted the socks off their older counterparts. Reedy’s solo as Michael in ‘Expressing Yourself’ had the whole audience in awe of the ease of his flamboyance and showmanship – besides the fact that the song itself reflects the core of the show of itself in saying that everyone should get a chance to express themselves.
As for Cook, his dancing had the audience literally ooh-ing and aah-ing: first with his triple fouette in the middle of the first act, and then the nine fouettes at the end of Billy’s dance in front of the panel. Throw in the modern tap piece during Billy’s tantrum (complete with intermittent screams), and Cook’s stamina blows your mind.
Like I said before, the show’s highlight are definitely their child actors. At the end of intermission, they dressed up as Christmas elves and went around with collection buckets – much like ‘The Money Song’ in Avenue Q – I didn’t see anyone give any money, but there definitely was some in the buckets (the cause the money goes to still eludes me). It was all very similar to when the Stranger Things cast rode around the Emmys on bicycles, handing out sandwiches. The breaking of the fourth wall continued with a faux stand-up gig by the boxing coach – all serving as an introduction to the second act – and it wasn’t at all jarring (unlike when other plays decide to engage directly with their audiences).
Other performances of note included Billy’s mother’s serenading – it is a shame that she played a ghost, I would have loved to hear her warble on for much longer – and the most adorable little kid at the start of the play, who quips with the most outrageous language and cusses his way into all of our hearts.
The story itself is moving, and the music (written by Sir Elton John) is rather catchy as well – all ticks for the musical theatre genre.
For those of you who have not seen the film, I’d suggest you bring tissues for the final moments – you should bring them even if you know how it ends too. Be ready for your emotions to be sucker punched.