Theater Review

Billy Elliot By the Numbers

Breaking down the Broadway musical one pirouette at a time.

By Laura Dannen March 25, 2011

Photo courtesy Michael Brosilow.

Mrs. Wilkinson (Prince) teaches Billy (Ishimoto) and a gaggle of preemie ballerinas to “Shine” in Billy Elliot.

4. Number of boys who play Billy—the son of a coal miner who braves some serious razzing to dance ballet—in the touring Broadway production.

13. Average age of the Billy boys.

12. Age of Lex Ishimoto, a Southern California native who starred on opening night. He swaps opening nights with 13-year-old Giuseppe Bausilio of Switzerland.

16. Pirouettes in a row required of Ishimoto in second-act number “Electricity.” (Roughly.)

7. Estimated number of child labor laws the musical would break if it had one kid doing 16 pirouettes in a row, every night, for months.

1984. Year the musical takes place, in a village in Northern England where everyone’s either a coal miner or a cop.

363. Days of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) strike—one of the longest national strikes in the UK’s history and the central conflict of Billy Elliot. NUM went up against then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who wanted to close the state-owned industry and referred to the striking miners as “the enemy within.”

98. Percent of coal used in Britain today that’s imported.

11. Estimated number of Margaret Thatcher jokes in the play.

19. Estimated number of Northern British accents attempted on stage on opening night.

0. Accents that actually worked.

1. Nutcracker joke. Billy’s best friend Michael (Griffin Birney) goes into a split, groans, and goes “That must be why it’s called the Nutcracker.” Woman behind me goes, “That must be British humor.”

4. Men in tutus spotted at intermission.

1. Broadway superstar in the touring cast: Faith Prince as Billy’s cantankerous ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson.

Countless. Moments in the show when you’re watching Ichimoto pop, spin, tap, and leap like a veteran dancer, and you have to shake your head and remind yourself he’s only 12.

20. Minutes of post-play discussion about unions, modern ballet, and the importance of musical theater that’s more than razzle dazzle.

Billy Elliot the Musical runs through Apr 3 at Paramount Theatre.

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