BILLIE ELLIOTT MADE ME CRY
I must be living in a cave--like that Japanese soldier on Guam who hid out until years after the war was over—because until last week I’d never heard of Billie Elliott. Meanwhile, everyone else seems to know about him . . uh, like years ago.
Oh well. Just as our La Mirada tickets were coming up, Rob explained. “It’s about a kid whose dad wants him to be a boxer—while he wants to be a ballet dancer.”
“Oh,” I said, and decided right then I’d probably like the show better than he would. Which didn’t turn out to be true.
We took our grandson and his wife (who also knew the story) . . . except none of us could have predicted we’d be getting a jarring surprise. Before the curtain rose, Tom McCoy came out and explained that their young star had practiced until his part was polished to perfection . . . then last Saturday, one week before opening, he’d been doing a last-scene dance—and somehow landed wrong and broke his arm. Tom motioned to a down-front seat. “Stand up, Noah Parets,” and the boy did, and sure enough, there he was, with his arm in a sling.
Tom McCoy went on. “We got lucky. We found another young man who lives in Florida, and he’d done the show in the United States and in London, and he came out to fill in for us. We think you’ll be surprised.”
Surprise was the wrong word. Mitchell Tobin was amazing. Slight of build and not very tall, Mitchell was fourteen, but appeared about twelve—with an appealing face that made him look like a kid who wouldn’t exactly take to boxing. Yet he was all-boy, and didn’t seem likely to be excited about wearing a tu-tu, either. He was just a young kid who wanted to dance . . . charming, breathless, innocent, and an actor who, in a British accent, talked to his “dead” mother on stage in ways that brought tears to our eyes.
But his dancing . . . how many fourteen-year-olds can do twenty toe spins in a row, or soar through the air like an eagle, with arms and legs positioned in exotic ballet poses? He spun, he did beautiful space flips, he jumped and dashed elegantly—at the end bringing the audience to their feet with cheers and prolonged clapping.
None of us could believe it. He must have had, at most, five days to practice in this strange city—for him an all-new cast, a new stage, a new director. Yet somehow the pieces went together flawlessly . . . with emotions so poignant that I wasn’t the only one who cried.
At least this week, I’ll move past the L.A. Times news pages and read the reviews in Calendar.
"The Tail on My Mother's Kite" -- autographed copies available: Maralys.com
E-book or paper--Amazon. (See links to right)