Posted Nov 10, 2018
We sent one of our MOM Squad ambassadors and her family to experience Billy Elliot the Musical at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. She received free tickets in exchange for providing an honest review of her experience.
Signature Theatre provided a smaller, more intimate theatrical experience than the Kennedy Center or even Fords Theatre. This production was unique and featured a large number of children in the cast, which was particularly fun for my boys to watch.
The theme of pursuing a passion even if your community makes fun of you for it resonated with them as well. They enjoyed the dance numbers and thought the lead child actor was a great singer.
Things that make this production particularly interesting for kids include the large number of cast members who are children, the interesting song and dance numbers performed by children, and the expansive and progressive view the production takes on not limiting oneself by traditional, conservative ideas on gender norms or normative behavior.
Not only does the lead character eventually pursue ballet, but two dance numbers show a boy and men wearing women's traditional dance attire. My boys actually loved it, and I thought it was a wonderful message about pursuing your passion.
Recommended Age Range:
My boys are 9 and 11-years-old and I was comfortable with them attending this production. However, there was strong language (the British equivalent to the f-word) throughout and depictions of smoking.
The subject matter -- the backdrop is the miners strike -- is also a bit complicated and the heavy accents of some performers all make me confident in recommending this show for mature children but not young children. I asked my boys what they thought and they said they thought children aged 9/10 are old enough but it depends on the kids.
I think parents should use discretion in attending and be aware of these mature themes. There is also the suggestion of homosexuality, with one boy character affectionately kissing the cheek of another character. Again, our family was completely comfortable with this and I actually welcome depictions of healthy sexual development in the theater, especially for young people.
Getting There and Getting In:
It took us 45 minutes to get to the Signature Theatre from Bethesda, MD. It was easy to find the Theatre, but difficult to find parking. There was significant construction in the closest parking garage that made getting around difficult. Many of the spaces are also reserved for condo residents, hotel guests and Harris Teeter short-term parking. The other nearby garage had parking on the very top level but was otherwise full. Definitely leave time to find parking! (Vendor Note: Please always check our Parking Maps page on our website before attending for updates on the available parking garages nearby.)
Tips for Families:
Consider discussing unions and strikes with your kids before visiting, as the miners' strike forms the background of the musical but is never really discussed.
Talk about accents and how people from different countries have different accents (this show takes place in the UK).
Remind older kids that Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the UK, like our President (she's referred to throughout the show, often as Maggie Thatcher).
You may even want to discuss why someone would be against unions and strikes, depending on how involved you want to get, or why people striking would be mad at people who choose not to join the strike. This is complicated for kids, which is one reason why I definitely advise against taking young children, but I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive my 9 & 11 year-olds were to these conversations.
We were there Tuesday night, and the only food available for purchase were large boxes of candy and individual Life Savers in the gift shop, so be sure to plan accordingly. (Vendor Note: We have a full menu at our cafe at every performance. The last food order is taken 15 minutes before the performance. Full menu can be found HERE.)
Run time is approximately 2 hours 45 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
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