Revisiting ‘Billy Elliot’ at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre


So, it was back to Billy Elliot last night (my third visit — opening night, a night I took my mom to see the show, and a special “blogger bash” performance last night).

J.P. Viernes as Billy Elliot

I don’t know what else to say about this fantastic show than what’s already been said. This time around, I finally got a chance to see a new Billy: Mr. J.P. Viernes. The previous two times I saw the amazing Ceaser Corrales. Viernes is a more introverted Billy — quieter. It was interesting to see his costars adapt to this performance — particularly Emily Skinner as dance instructor Mrs. Wilkinson, who was noticeably gentler than she was with Corrales’ Billy. (You should try to catch Ms. Skinner in the show before she leaves for the Broadway company Sept. 19. She’s a force in the role.)

In the dancing department, Viernes seems more precise and intense, if a bit less risky and energetic, than Corrales. But really, the kid is friggin’ amazing, and totally deserved the standing ovation he got at his curtain call.

After the show, we dodged through a downpour (sans umbrellas!) to a special post-show reception at theWit hotel. Can’t say I’m a fan of theWit — the atmosphere’s rather douchey, what with snooty staff and overpriced drinks ($28 for two glasses of wine?). But the company more than made up for it. My partner in theatre crime, Jamie, was my plus one (read her blog post on last night’s performance), and the fabulous Katy Walsh of The Fourth Walsh is always a good time. It was also nice to finally meet Scotty Zacher of Chicago Theater Blog.

With 'Billy Elliot' cast members. From left: Abby Church, Patrick Mulvey, me, Jamie. J.P. Viernes in front.

Then, Katie Martin of Margie Korshak, Inc. introduced us to three cast members: Abby Church (who’s in the ensemble), Patrick Mulvey (who plays Billy’s brooding older brother Tony), and, in a complete surprise, Viernes. The confident 14 year-old handled the fawning crowd with skill. He told me he plays Billy two times a week, rotating the role with the other three Billys (Tommy Batchelor, Giuseppe Bausilio and Corrales). When asked if he was tired from all that dancing, he said, “I’m never exhausted after a performance!” His beaming (and adorable) parents came to collect him at the end of the night, and I shook their hands and told them how proud they should be. Church and Mulvey also chatted with us for a bit, and they were each equally lovely. I wish them all the best of luck.

Catch “Billy Elliot”, playing through Nov. 28, at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre. More info here >

SPECIAL OFFER: Until Sept. 16, kids go free to “Billy Elliot”! For every full price adult ticket for any Tuesday through Thursday performance, use the code KIDSFREE when ordering online or calling 1.800.775.2000. Kids’ tickets are valid for ages 14 and under, and are subject to availability.

3 thoughts on “Revisiting ‘Billy Elliot’ at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre

  1. Sounds like a great evening! I saw JP Viernes as Billy as well, and I thought he was just adorable, and a really terrific dancer. Someone I work with told me that the Wit was “the hottest place in Chicago” but I am not sure I agree with that assessment. But hey, what do I know?

    1. You know more than whoever told you it was the “hottest place in Chicago.” However, the AC didn’t seem to be working there last night, so maybe there was some truth to that claim…

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