By Bill Hirschman, FloridaTheaterOnStage.com, for SouthFloridaReporter.com, Dec. 5, 2015 – Joy suffuses most dancers and athletes upon discovering that their body will do what they tell it to, that brain and muscles and heart and spirit meld into a whole completely in control, capable of a precision pirouette or an over-the-fence home run, a celebration of a perfection found nowhere else in anyone’s lives.
One of the most moving images in the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s winning production of Billy Elliot the Musical is Nicholas Dantes’ euphoric face as the titular hero discovers to his growing surprise that he has a facility for making his body dance. His realization of fulfillment and self-worth that he never thought possible stirs something in the audience’s soul as we vicariously savor what we have experienced or longed to have experienced.
It overlaps and reinforces a half-dozen other themes of the Disney variety of “be who you are” and “be all you can be” – all legitimate even affecting if standard sentiments approaching meme status.
But by focusing on those elements, the Maltz has successfully re-imagined the 2008 Broadway show, which divided audiences into rabid fans and those just pleasantly entertained for a couple of hours. This new version is more effective than the national company that toured South Florida a few seasons back.