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Step-Ball-Chain Smoke


Was standing outside the theatre last night waiting for Norm and Rose (who I'm slowly renaminmg Norman Rose, sorta sounds the same, eh?) and Stephen Daldry walks by. "Hmm," I think. "That's odd for the director to be around once the show's opened."

Norman Rose show up 45 minutes late (an honest mistake, as it's easy to confuse Victoria and Piccadilly), and we grab a quick pint (as one does) for our pre-show dinner.

Walking toward the theatre, I see a limo pull up, a bodyguard jump out and escort a chubby, bewigged and bespectacled pop-culture idol from the street to the lobby. No, not Liz Taylor ... the other one.

As he's being rushed past us, I grab Larry's arm and say "Look, it's your ex-boyfriend."

"Which one?"


"Really, where?" head spinning around, eyes popping out, very Linda Blair. It must have been a devilishly good night they spent together so many years ago.

Hmm. The director and the composer are both in the house, a couple weeks after the opening. Something must be up with tonight's performance, I reckon, silently congratulating myself on my Keen Sense of the Obvious.

Sure enough, Elton and his lapdog partner/executive producer (is it just an optical illusion that the bigger Reginald gets, the skinnier that David becomes?) walk on stage, to well-deserved ballyhoo from the crowed. Turns out we're in for "a very special performance of Billy Elliot" (oh no ... Billy's being played by Corky?), as tonight's show has been underwritten by and 100% of all of this sold-out performance's ticket sales are going directly to Elton's AIDS Foundation.

Very cool. I look at Larry to congratulate him on the philanthropy and well-chosen night to buy tickets ... getting a "who knew?" shrug in return. Apparently we just fell into it; and we had good seats too. Bonus.

So Norman Rose got to see a big (really big ... maybe he should try South Beach) celebrity, and a huge crowd-pleaser of a show.

Hadn't read any of the reviews, as I knew I'd see it and didn't want anything to spoil it. I'd heard good buzz and seen a BBC documentary on the boys who were cast in the lead. So I was very excited.

It is wonderful. There are a number of suprises in the transition from film to stage, and I'm glad I didn't know about them. The score is good (although I think I heard Funeral for a Friend at one point) and there are some instant cabaret classics (We'd Go Dancing, Expressing Yourself and Electricity). There is a lot of derivation homage in the show ... a blatent 'razzle dazzle' rip-off from Chicago, some Chorus Line 'music in the mirrors' in the form of riot shields, and Les Miz goes to the mines.

A couple parts distracted me (really strained numbers between the dad and the older brother, a forced heartstring puller from dad during Christmas, a terrible wig on "grown up" Billy, and the horribly annoying thought that Karen Ziemba might get the part of Mrs. Wilkinson when they launch it in NY), but at the end of the night there was nothing but singing and dancing and chain-smoking joy.

I want to see it at least twice more ... I think each of the Billys deserves a viewing. I doubt the show would be much different, but from watching the tv special, each of the boys has their own charm, so I'm really curious to see how that plays on stage.

There are 3 Billys (we saw Liam last night). There are also 3 each of the characters Michael (what a fun, camp role for a kid to have) and Debbie (last night's was a rubbish actor). I wonder if they've got Billy and Michael paired off, or if the kids are working with different kids each night.

I'm also wondering what it's like for the adult performers in the show. They really can't get too set in their performance if their co-star is a little different every night. I think that makes for great theater ... if not a little challenging for the actors. And you know that Haydn Gwynne has to have her "favorite" ... it'd be interesting to see the show a few times and see how the chemistry changes with different kids in the parts. Or maybe it's so tightly directed that they're all giving cloned performances (which I totally doubt ... not the direction, but the cloning).

Who's got the inside story?