Англофил (valchess) wrote,

Oliver Taylor in Billy Elliot The Musical: Selected Reviews

This is a "companion" post to my essay "Oliver Taylor's Last Night (and a Little Beyond): Rhapsody in Russian Blue". It is a collection of selected reviews of Oliver Taylor's "Billy Elliot the Musical" shows initially published at the "Billy Elliot the Musical - Complete Forum" that is now closed (with all its huge content lost). During his time as Billy (18 June - 15 December, 2007) in the acclaimed West End musical, Olly has performed in 50 shows. That distinctive one-of-the-kind portrayal resulted in 120+ reviews (not counting numerous short exchanges between members of the forum) unprecedented in terms of level of detail analysis and emotional involvement. Hopefully, this selection gives a representative flavour of it.

Thanks to all the authors for their permission to reproduce their texts here as well as to the photographers.

Dancer, 18 June, 2007
. . So, another first night and Stephen Daldry appeared on stage to announce our 11th Billy, young Oliver Taylor. No Travis as Michael this evening, as a certain Jonty Bower had recovered from his recent injury a lot quicker than expected, but we are promised Travis as Michael later in the week due to Ryan being on a well deserved break. This was the first time I had seen Raefn Webber, the new Small Boy, and the Tall Boy was also new to me. I’m sorry but I don’t know his name, perhaps someone can let us know. In many ways this seemed like a brand new show with many new faces and several main cast members missing. There was no Trevor Fox, Alex Delamere, Kate Graham and Erica Ann Deakin. Billy, Tall Boy and Small Boy were new to me and I have only seen Jackie Clune once.
. . Oliver did not make the same immediate impact on me as when I saw Layton and Corey on their opening nights, but he really impressed in his own individual way. The word that comes to mind when describing Ollie’s Billy for me is ‘sweet’, so different from some of the other Billys we have had in the past. First impressions were of a rather fragile boy, his dark hair accentuating his porcelain features. He was clearly rather nervous in front of a full theatre of 1,500 paying customers and who wouldn’t be on such an important occasion, I’d be absolutely terrified! Ollie was really concentrating on getting everything right and like all the other Billys before him will soon relax and put his own stamp on the role.
. . He has a lovely pure voice, light and clear, and sings very well indeed. In fact when singing the penultimate line in Deep Into The Ground, “but I’ll love these dark, dark hills forever……” he raises his voice an octave higher than any of the other Billys I’ve heard, which sounds far more natural to me. I’m sure mwill and james234 will be able to confirm this. But don’t let his soft voice lull you into a false sent of security, as when he gets worked up, boy does he get angry! For someone whose most rude expression before the show was ‘criminy cream cracker’, you are suddenly jolted awake with some very strong expletives! Ollie as Billy really shouts when’s he’s annoyed. Just a pity he forgot the “oh sh*t” after calling his father a “bast**d”. That’s one of my favourite lines in the whole show, the way it’s said when Billy is running away from his dad!
. . Shine was very well done by everybody and Jackie was giving it her all in the singing department. Ollie’s dancing is really beautiful to watch and deservedly got loud applause at the end of the song. The jokes in Expressing Yourself were the Squirrels Nuts by Jonty and Snowballs by Ollie. Angry Dance continued the ‘angry’ theme with Ollie producing a wonderful range of facial expressions during the dance, ending with a typical stroppy teenage glare at the audience when walking off stage.
. . My favourite part of last night’s show must be Swan Lake. At the end of the Winter scene with Michael, Ollie left the tape player running for longer than normal giving us a few extra bars of the music, before commencing the dance with Isaac. And Ollie looked like he was really enjoying himself. He didn’t smile much during the show but during this piece the grin never left his face and it just hit you in the heart. You can see where Ollie’s real love lies, he really does want to become a ballet dancer.
. . The Electricity dance was, as predicted, the ballet version which was very much enjoyed by the audience. The song was sung with immense confidence. An amusing thing in the RBS audition scene was after Ollie had wound up the tape with the pencil, he offered the tape to every person in turn, about six of them, before it was finally snatched out of his hand by the U-turn tape man. The look on Ollie’s face as everyone ignored him was very moving and you felt so sorry for him. Talking of moving scenes, back-tracking a little, the Letter produced no tears from Ollie, but you could feel his grief on seeing the image of his dead mother appearing before him.
. . I was sitting in stalls B16 right in front of where Billy climbs down with his case at the end of the show. It really makes a thump on the floor. Goodness knows what else they put in it apart from the clothes. I’m sure a miner’s lamp doesn’t weigh that much! After climbing off stage Ollie gave that beautiful, haunting smile of his to the lady next to me in B15. It just melted your heart.
. . A very happy finale with a smiley Ollie, who was clearly glad that his opening show had gone off so well. There were just a couple of minor, amusing hiccups. Ollie was rather startled by his dead Mum coming into the kitchen when he was drinking milk from the bottle resulting in a mouthful going all over his face and dribbling down his chin. Ollie couldn’t open the left hand curtain fully in the puppet scene, and after struggling with it for a moment or two just ignored it! It was then held open by one of the ensemble. And when Dad and Tony burst into the kitchen when the postman arrived, Chris Lennon hit the right hand table so hard that a loose fitting biscuit tin lid shot off and landed on the floor, kicked out of the way by Ann Emery when she went to get the knife to slit open the letter.
. . Oliver got two well deserved standing ovations at the end of the finale which brought to an end an excellent show with just a few mixed up lines and first night nerves. It was good to see Jonty back after his absence and eally do like Jackie Clune’s Mrs Wilkinson. She plays the role so naturally and is utterly convincing. You can clearly see where Ollie’s strengths lie. There were very few acrobatics but he loves his dancing and has a beautiful singing voice. Yet another superb find by the production team. A final word of appreciation must go to the orchestra who, especially the drummer, gave a very polished performance last night under the leadership of Chris Hatt.
. . After the show there was the usual first night party. Layton, Jonty and Shaun soon came out and were taken home in the Billy bus. At about 11:15pm Stephen Daldry came out and whilst he was chatting to the few hardy forum members who were waiting patiently, Ollie and his family slipped out and were halfway down the street before anyone realised. Looked like he was going to spend the night with his parents. So sadly we weren’t able to congratulate him and no photos this time. Of course, I’m sure the family weren’t expecting anyone to be hanging around at such a late hour. They’ll learn!

JW, 8 September, 2007
. . As Travis Yates took his final bow, amidst the cheers, the tears, and the bravos I wondered for a second whether I'd become jaded with the show. Will a Billy, no matter how brilliant he may be, be able to quite capture my heart in the same way that some of their predecessors have done? After yesterday's matinee, I can confidently answer YES to that question. How silly to even question the magic that is Billy Elliot.
. . Billy's story is constantly being re-invented with the arrival of even more actors playing the role. Each bring to the role, a new twist, a different reading, that challenges the viewer and allows, nay demands, multiple viewings to grasp the essence of this story. There are those actors for whom the story of Billy is one of building a relationship with Dad and coming to terms with the community he is a part of. Then there are others where the focus is perhaps slightly more on Billy's desire for maternal affection and acceptance of the death of his mum. Some Billys have the emphasis on triumph in the midst of adversity, of inspiration, and in some respects heroism - of success at the very end. Then there is Olly's Billy. He plays the part of Billy, as a boy so acutely aware of his circumstances and so completely broken by events, that there is a sense of hopelessness in his Billy. I wouldn't even say, as others have said, that his was an angry Billy. I think anger is too 'warm' an emotion to express what his Billy is going through. Here, Billy is so wearied and numb, that he can't be angry. Angry requires too much of him even. He's tired and lost, let down continually by the adults in his life, that he could never open up to them completely. Even right at the very end of the story as Billy takes his lonely procession away from the stage and into the great unknown, there isn't the assurance that things will turn out fine for Billy. There isn't the sure hope of something better. The viewer is left with the nagging question, can Billy ever find happiness? Will he ever be able to open up and embrace others?
. . For Olly's Billy, the medium of dance, is but a fleeting moment where a lonely child catches a glimpse of the divine, only to have him crashing back down to the dismal condition of his life when the music dies off. The progression of the story therefore, is not one of Billy discovering dance, and consequently discovering himself, but something more subtle. It is of Billy discovering dance, finding it a source of solace and comfort, but all the while it never fully healing him, or rather of him never fully allowing dance to heal him. There's always the pain to go back to, even when he's dancing. Oliver's interpretation takes the sadness and pain in the story of Billy Elliot, and magnifies it for the viewer to experience the complete and utter depths of Billy's sorrow. The forlonness at which he sings the final "Mummy" in the Letter reply, leaves one in no doubt, that the story of Billy and Dead Mum, lives on. Will it ever find resolution, one wonders?
. . I said earlier that Olly's Billy never lets anyone in all the way. The closest he gets to allowing another to glimpse his very core, is Mrs Wilkinson - the one who introduced him to dance in the first place. It is not through lack of trying that Billy is unable to fully let her, or anyone else in. He tries - you can tell he does by the force of his embrace with others, in the letter scene with Dead Mum, or in the Billy/Mrs W hug scene. The sheer intensity of his embrace propels the other party backwards, such is his desire to try and let the other know of his affection but somehow through a combination of factors, his efforts seem to be in vain, and you are left with the somewhat sinking feeling, as Billy bids his final farewell to Mrs W, that perhaps, just perhaps, Mrs Wilkinson was mistaken in her advice for Billy to piss off, however well-intentioned they may be. For to Billy, it seems like once again, he is being rebuffed. Perhaps, the more approrpiate response to Billy, would be to allow and respect his wishes to maintain a relationship, albeit one that depends upon him visiting when he's back home from the RBS, for it is stability and reassurance that Olly's Billy needs as opposed to a shove away even if one may imagine that to be for his own benefit.
. . The danger in such an interpretation of course, is that it may leave an audience scratching its head, and wondering if this was not an over-reaction on Billy's part, imagining him to be a truculent, angry little boy, as opposed to one who truly had just cause for his despair. It is to Olly's credit then that at no point is the viewer left pondering that question. Olly captures Billy's grief from the moment he walks on stage, to such a degree of natural intuition, that the viewer is immediately on his side, even if they're not quite sure why just yet. Olly the actor, has in abundance a special charm that I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps it is the rather startling juxtaposition of his portrayal of a world weary street lad who has plumbed the depths of hell and back set amidst his waif-like figure, and angelic choirboy voice, that disarms one. Or maybe it's that easy grace with which he inhabits the stage, his graceful, almost languid move when he dances which is rounded of by a rush and a jerk at the end of the dance move. In any case, as the Angry Dance comes to it's climax, and Billy rolls about, seamlessly making the transition to the floor and back up again continuing that never ending thump of crazy movement reflecting the torment that lies in his head, his voice while screaming, cracking in sheer frustration, until finally Billy collapses in a heap on the floor, the echo of final word he shouts - No! - finally dying out, your heart is left bleeding for this very fragile Billy. And when Billy soars through the air in Swan Lake (and here, Oliver the dancer displays such graceful elegance, that I found myself watching slack jawed, and for some strange reason wanting to giggle hysterically), he takes you with him, and you too feel that you are soaring through the air, and you find yourself inextricably wrapped up in Billy's story.
. . You leave the theatre satisfied, not so much by the ending of the musical, and how you finally get to see Billy achieve his dreams and his just reward, but you leave satisfied at having been taken on a journey. You're left unsure as to how the journey ends, but you feel privileged just to have been on it all the same. Such is the power with which Olly's Billy draws you in - maybe it is his quiet introverted tone which forces a more reflective reading for the viewer, or maybe it is just the sheer naturalness with which he acts and reacts to the other actors on stage - but he has the ability to allow you to feel uncertain and sure at the same time. And as Billy walks up to Michael, plants a kiss on his cheek, turns and walks away, then stops in his tracks, turns directly to face Michael and whispers in that unmistakably forlorn torn that his Billy possesses, you sit there amazed at such a complete understanding of the character from one so young. Such a total immersion into the role, and the sense of daring which it must have taken to develop a portrayal so different from anything seen on the Billy stage previously. They almost don't give a damn attitude with which Olly shows for audience reaction, by taking such a huge risk with his take me or leave me interpretation, displays a profundity and maturity that is quite remarkable.
. . This is a Billy that is special. This is a Billy that has won me over so completely, and one that I can see winning me over time and time again.
. . Rock on Olly.

Tzwicky, 23 October 2007
. . Olly is quite a staggeringly beautiful Billy to return to London to see. Well worth the flight time.
. . In a word, and I've decided so far that going for a single word (more or less) to sum up my week's worth of individual Billy experiences, is that Oliver is an intensely focused Billy. I was ready for an angry, petulant Billy, and I could see that in there, too, but for me, Olly's calling card is intensity. I half think that were a set piece or player missing from a scene he was in, Olly could blast right through and shake it off. He's that good.
. . I've got to think, that of all the Billys I've seen, his Billy is the closest to whatever serves as the technical dance script for the show. I think Olly dances the show that Peter Darling wrote, before he ever saw a Billy cast in the show. The dance steps, broken down into individual moves, segments, sequences, scenes, are out there, written down, waiting for a Billy to be cast and then fitted to the dance moves, individually. I've got to think that Olly is Peter's Billy, jumped right off the page.
. . Olly's Billy fits naturally into every scene in which he appears, and then rises to shine every time there's a possibility for Billy to shine. Not that I am in any way speaking from a dance background, or anything close to it, but it just seemed, to this viewer, that Olly is dead-on. He's brilliant. He's precise. He's measured. He's there full-time, dancing full-bore, full-tilt.
. . I was (not to belabor the point) gobsmacked.
. . Watching much of the show through my enormous binoculars, which gives me a field of view (from Row D of the stalls) of no more than 3 feet wide, I am right there face to face with any actor I'm watching. In the case of Olly's Billy, you see the concentration, the force of his connection to what's in front of him or in the case of a large scale dance, the full stage on which he is performing. It's amazing. And with Olly, with his really deeply set eyes, it's sometimes difficult to get that concentration (or so I suspect).
. . In the scene where Billy twirls right up to his dad with an excellent flourish, all the while seeking his dad's approval, Olly is there, nose to nose (in this case with my fave Teddy Bear of a dad, David Bardsley) and the moment lasts, and last and there's massive anticipation. And then finally Dad says, "Go home Billy." Crestfallen hardly does justice to what inundates Oliver's face, then his entire body, as disappointment washes over him. I nearly yelped out loud, along with the occasional audience member who is, I suppose, experiencing the show in a way I can no longer, as a BETM Virgin.
. . Yep, that scene, that moment helped crystallize the show for me on Tuesday night.
. . Olly, IMHO, if a full-tilt, technically precise, focused and self-starting Billy.
. . And if it isn't obvious from my above words (this is where readers can jump in and say, "What the hell is that guy saying?") I just adore Olly's Billy.
. . All in all ... a spectacular night.

Jacob, 22 November 2007
. . I have seen Olly since June or July and it has been interesting to see him gain in confidence. Most of the Billys feed off each other and I think he has taken some of Travis' moves in the Boxing scene to great advantage. Similarly I think the later Billys have drawn ideas from Olly. This the sign of a fine ensemble approach by the cast to a Show where Prima Donnas are not tolerated. May this continue.
. . Dancer has commented on the fanny scene in this performance. This an area where Olly has added his own dramatic interpretation. His is not a Pinteresque pause followed by audience laughter. In fact he has facial expressions which illustrate the thoughts that are going through Billy's head ie does he want this?, what will Debbie say to her mates (ballet girls) if he declines her offer?, aren't boys supposed to say yes to the offer? He starts to reply, but then stops before the words come out. Billy is a 12 year old boy with issues about his sexuality and this underlies the scene. Olly does not play it as a cameo for audience laughter. The audience understands this aspect, particularly the teenagers. His facial expressions are most clearly seen in the left side of the front Stalls. In the event on Thursday evening the heckle from the audience was unfortunate. I hope this will not become a feature in the Show. BETM is not vaudeville.
. . The other area that Olly has contributed lies in the final scenes. There is a sequence of goodbyes........to Grandma, to his Dance teacher, to Tony , to Dad, to Mum and finally to Michael. He plays these in an exquisite way with increasing emotional intensity. The goodbyes are in an ascending order of pain both for him and for the audience. The goodbye to Michael is the most painful of all. Olly did not cry in this performance but Shaun did. He may never perform with Olly again.
. . Some people cry when they are upset but others display emotions in more subtle ways. Olly was upset but this was only noticeable from the very front Stalls.
. . The school in the Row behind me were about Year 9 I think. They were so well behaved. The boy I spoke to told me that they were from St Michael's Chester and how much he had enjoyed the Show.
. . I cannot add anything to what has already been posted in other reviews in respect of his balletic dancing and his singing. He is not a gymnast, he is a Dancer. It is a pity that the choreography did not allow him to use his balletic moves more. No leaps, no elevation. Unfortunately the VP stage area is too small for many of these movements.
. . He will have left his mark on the Show.

Chris, 1 December 2007
. . We had expected this show to be an emotional one and it did not disappoint. There was a whole plethora of Billies in the theatre to ensure that the last original child star had a big send off; Leon, Liam and Travis were all in the stalls, with the current cast in the dress circle. Hadyn Gwynne was spotted, along with Lee Proud, in the soundbox. I have to say that, at times, I felt Olly's departure was a little overshadowed by that of Ryan; given the suggestions that Olly may well help out for a while until Trent starts, it might have been fairer for him to have his own final night. To me, the first surprise of the evening was the appearance of Stephen Daldry on stage to give the speech - he thanked the members of the ensemble who were leaving, Rob, Paddy and Dominic, each of whom joined in December last year, mentioned Leigh, thanked Olly and then spoke very warmly of Ryan, harking back to his audition at the age of 9 in 2003. He also spoke of Isaac's importance in developing the Dream Ballet.
. . Then the lights dimmed and a small boy - a dark haired one - clambered up onto the stage to watch the video. The ensemble, which included Isaac, were on sparkling form tonight. Rob Browning went around the stage selling "Socialist Worker" in "The Stars Look Down"; Ryan got a massive round of applause as soon as he cycled on. I'd not seen Olly since his opening night; I was struck by how much he's grown in the last six month. This was also a very different, much more confident performance. His acting has developed considerably during his all-too-short time with the show. I was impressed by his singing in June, and nothing that happened last night changed that. In some ways it is better for a Billy to leave whilst they still fit the part, but it also makes it all the more poignant - with James, Liam and Leon they had reached the end of lifespan as Billy, so their leaving was a rite of passage, but Matt and Olly, for example, have both left in their prime.
. . The breakfast scene was a bit of a disaster with James dropping beans on the floor and then Olly spilling the milk everywhere. The look that Ann Emery gave was absoluteley priceless. In the boxing scene, Billy hammed up his pre-bout dance to excess and the audience loved it. Shine was fantastic - Leigh Laurie's pouty Debbie was making the most of her last moments in the role. And Jackie Clune has turned into an exceptional Mrs. Wilkinson. OK, so her dancing isn't that great, but her characterisation is fantastic. Hard as nails when she wants to be, but with a real warmth underneath.
. . Ann was, as ever, in great form. There really seemed to be a sense of melancholy in Grandma's song tonight, Grandma seemed really unhappy about something; but then there was a great sense of fun as she got to the end. A perfectly judged performance.
. . Expressing Yourself was always going to be the emotional heart of the show. Ryan was a bit more over the top than normal, but he didn't take it to the extremes of some of the departing Michaels. Olly's face was not, for example, plastered in lipstick, it was just applied discretely. He did however, change the "Care to dance" line to "Would you like the last dance?", the song was delivered with a sense of energy and fun which the audience loved. Ryan won the shoe race by a country mile. I didn't catch Ryan's joke, but Olly fell back on the well-used Snowballs one. At the end of the song, Olly jumped on Ryan's back and there was the now traditional "Express" ending. As Ryan took his bow, the audience - led by the large number of Billies in the house - jumped to their feet.
. . If there was a highlight of Act 1 is was, to me, The Letter, Olly managed to keep his composure well during the song and performed it beautifully. He then has a whale of a time with Jackie and Alex during "Born To Boogie" - when Alex pointed to his bum and told Billy to kiss this, Olly replied "It's f****ing big enough". The toilet scene was delightful. Leigh delivers her lines so well and the "F****y" line, and Ollie's response, was perfectly timed. Jackie dominated the Confrontation and then Olly gave everything he had to the Angry Dance.
. . In Act 2, Trevor was his usual cheeky self during the Chrismas Scene, James Gaddas as Dad seemed a little flat tonight. I've certainly heard better renditions of "Deep Into The Ground" from him; then there was the scene that both of the boys must have been dreading - the winter scene. Ryan seems much happier not to have to shout the Kevin Keagan line through the mike. The scene was delivered very sensitively - Ryan great strength has always been the way he is able to slightly underplay Michael, so that you feel sorry for him.
. . Tom L covered the role of Older Billy tonight, I wonder if some of the audience were a bit confused by this given Stephen's glowing comments about Isaac - (reminded me of a situation this time last year when Stephen had spoken very gushingly about Gillian Kirkpatrick's portrayal of Mrs Wilkinson, and one of the usherettes had misinterpreted the comments to think that Sally was leaving). Anyway, Tom was very gentle and supportive of Olly during the dance, they worked well together to produce an excellent piece of theatre. Chris was really aggressive during the "He Could Be A Star" scene.
. . During the audition scene, Tom L again played the ballet dancer approaching the end of his rehearsal, but the dancer had been transformed into Isaac in time for the curtain scene with dad. Isaac left the stage to very generous applause. Olly really seemed to whack the tall boy (blond, glasses) into the curtain, before the interview. He delivered Electricity very well, keeping his composure throughout. His singing is tuneful and his diction good and, personally, I prefer the ballet-style dance and musical arrangement.
. . When the letter arrived, James and Chris were a bit slow in getting on stage causing a piercing whistle from Ann to attract their attention. By the Goodbye scene, Olly's emotions were beginning to get the better of him. As Debbie made her final exit, Leigh strode over to Olly and gave him a big hug. As Jackie told Olly he was "very f***ing special", Olly began to cry. He had to wipe away the tears before "Deep Into The Ground". Getting through the reprise of The Letter was clearly an ordeal for Olly. He managed the first couple of lines before he was crying so much that he could barely deliver the song. I think Sara Poyzer as Dead Mum, deserves a special mention for the sympathetic and generous way she supported Olly through this. It was clearly very hard for him. She delivered her final "No, I don't think so, do you?" ever so gently, before walking backward slowly to leave a very tearful Olly to leave the stage with his case.
. . The final scene was one of the most emotional moment I've ever seen. The gently placed kiss, with Olly turning round to leave the stage. "See you, Ryan", said Olly, and Ryan replied, "Yeah, see you Olly". There can't have been a dry eye in the house as the curtain descended ever so slowly.
. . I'm pleased to report that Olly had regained his composure for the curtain call and led the dancing with vigour. Special shout out to Tom L who didn't take the bow for Older Billy, leaving Isaac to get this last moment of glory.
. . No closing speeches at the end, but somehow that seemed fitting. There will, I am sure, be more emotional last nights at this amazing show, but it will be hard to find anything that will top last night.

JW, 15 December 2007
. . Here's a pared down list of the many things I'll miss about Olly's Billy.
. . The way he stumbles past Dad in Stars Look Down, gives a dirty look and mouths a feck off at Tony and sits slumped in his chair. From the first few seconds of his appearance on stage, the audience immediately get a glimpse of what's to come from this particular Billy. Slouching, head down, you get a feel for the weariness and sense of isolation he's going through. It's mysterious. It's intriguing. It doesn't give everything away but it gives you a tiny hint, and makes you sit up and take an interest in the reasons for his current state.
. . The first moment where you hear Olly's Billy sing those words "Take me up, and hold me gently..", his voice - sweet, high, and pure, the very gentleness of the voice rising melodiously over the literal darkness of the stage and the metaphorical darkness of the strike - a stark contrast from the insolent boy we saw stomping past the miners. He takes up their tune, adding a sense of expectancy and longing to their song, his voice filled with hope. From the almost tentative start with Billy looking at the ground, he slowly rises, and then as he reaches the line.."will come a day, when we will fly"..his previously gloomy expression is lightened by a faint smile - a hint perhaps of the sensitive soul hidden beneath this guarded exterior, and also a logical link between the day he flys and later in Electricity when he says that he's flying like a bird. I'll miss the charming way Olly sings "b-ah-kk to our home." The hard 'a' sound followed by the crips 'k' consonant in the word back. Incredibly charming.
. . The pretend annoyance he shows when Dead Mum stops him from drinking out of the bottle. The way he would half-smile, half-laugh shyly as he sat down in the chair gazing at his mother and then looking away in embarassment at his own feelings of affection.
. . The way his Billy acted in Shine. His determination at getting the key to Mrs Wilkinson. The false bravado he shows at the end with the fan. The slight tilt of the head, the droll expression on his face, the faint huff as he walks away from the group even before the applause has died down.
. . His handling of the scene with Grandma. The absolute subtlety of the way he interacted with Grandma in Grandma's Song, with the smile as Grandma sang the line - We'd go dancing. The indulgent look, and the sincerity of the smile with which he gives her as she dances with the men in her imagination, and the very faint smile at the end, as he takes her hand in his, she lays another hand on that, and he again lays a hand on top of that.
. . I'll miss his temper in the post-solidarity scene with Dad. The way he screams out "You're supposed to be encouraging us to do thing" gesticulating furiously. You get for the first time perhaps that he's unsure of Dad's love for him - something which he makes a recurring theme throughout the rest of the show. The quiet, menacing tone he adopts as he approaches dad, whispering that he hates him.
. . The fidgeting about with his hands, his clothes, the slow, tentative responses, the hesitant pauses, in his conversation with Mrs Wilkinson later on. He's embarassed that she had to see the dirty linen of the Elliot family and he's also embarassed that he really did want to do ballet. Did the argument with his Dad make him doubt whether ballet was indeed a suitable activity for the male gender?
. . The heartbreaking way he sings the Letter. The way he would smile when he saw the apparition of his Mum, the hands on the chair and the way his body would lean forward as he gasped while Mum makes her first initial move away, then the disbelief as he realised that she wasn't actually moving away but coming towards him. The way he held both her hands in his and the pause before the embrace. The force of his embrace which propels Dead Mum backwards, and later the way his outstretched left arm would leave him there forlonly and the long silent pause before he choked out the line, love you forever.
. . I'll miss the embrace between Billy and Mrs Wilkinson in the scene just after Born to Boogie. Like the Billy/Dead Mum embrace in the Letter the sheer force with which Olly puts into it propels Mrs Wilkinson backwards slightly. I'll miss the smile of relief on his face as he delivers the line, "Don't worry Miss, I'll put me alarm on."
. . The way he would throw his bag on the ground in anger and weariness as Mrs Wilkinson makes her appearance at the Elliot house. The way he would go up to her and insert her hand in his. The way he would declare, "I don't want a childhood. I want to be a ballet dancer" as if it were the most magical thing in the world, sharing a look with Mrs Wilkinson at the same time. Watching Oliver himself say that, you couldn't help thinking as he said that - you ARE a ballet dancer.
. . I'll miss the way his voice rises above the melee of Merry Xmas Maggie Thatcher, reaching the highest notes of that final verse of Deep Into the Ground with such ease, sending my spine tingling at the sheer beauty of the phrasing of "love these dark, dark hills forever."
. . The smile of delight as he interacts with Older Billy in Swan Lake. The way he would curve his body into that perfect picture of gracefulness as he performed on the wire, and finally that perfect tour in the arabasque position which he handles with complete stability. No extraneous movement at all.
. . The way he would grab posh boy by the collar of his shirt with his right hand and use his left hand to slam his head against the safety curtain. That look of self-disgust as he realised just what he'd done.
I'll miss the way he would hang his head in the interview with the audition panel refusing to look at them or Dad at the question regarding whether Billy had the support of his family. The way he would look solemnly at Dad after Dad's positive reply.
. . The way he'd hold out his arms to Dad post-Electricity expecting an embrace but getting his belongings in return. The look of anguish on his face, causing him to run out of the room.
. . I'll miss the way he says, "Well Bye Bye", in that ridiculously endearing way of his in the Goodbye Scene with Mrs Wilkinson.
. . The fact that he couldn't bear to even look at Dead Mum as he sings the letter reply.
. . I'll miss the way Olly handled the final kiss and Goodbye with Michael. The walk away from Michael, then the sudden halt, Billy turns and faces Michael and in a small, low voice says See ya Michael, then walks away without awaiting a reply. He walks away from the town without so much as a glance back.
. . I'll just miss Olly's Billy. That remarkably complex and enigmatic portrayal of Billy which has moved me so intensely. The subtlety, the sensitivity, the fragility, the absolute and total understanding of character. Yeah, I'll miss his Billy.
. . Bye Bye Olly. I don't know what else to say.

Lina, 15 December 2007
. . Olly, I hope you have a great time at the theatre today.
. . This post is my feelings for Olly's performance.
. . Firstly I would like to apologise you might be hard to read it because it is quite long and there might be lots of grammatical errors. I hope you will sense my excitement.
. . I have written hardly any post on the forum for a long time because it was very difficult and took a long time that I explained in my poor English exactly what I felt from BETM I saw. However, this time, I cannot help writing how impressed I was by Olly's performance especially his ballet on the 1st December. (If I could I would love to write of my thought on his acting and interpretation of Billy, but for me, too difficult to explain it in English. I would like to just concentrate to write of his ballet.)
. . I had only seen Olly's performances two times until that day. These were in September which was my trip from Japan. His Billy that was really sensitive, subtle, fragile and gentle struck me. Also I was so impressed by his ballet, his sincere love to ballet. (Well... I was a ballet dancer, though I left before becoming a real professional. I had been training for the ballet from 5 to 23 years old in Japan and France. So I am a bit sure I might have a observant eye for it.)
. . At the time, some people said that his ballet had not had lithe movement so much. Yes indeed, his arm movements were a little bit stiff, I suppose it might be his habit and fault. However for me, it was very small things. I was just excited and impressed by his ballet. I guess he must have been taking really good lessons for the ballet in his home town. He had the good basis in ballet. Also he knew how to show himself in ballet on the stage. He danced using his whole body, not only arms and legs but also from his centre of body. Particularly in Swan Lake, I felt he looked bigger than himself. His dancing was full of happiness to dance. It was so beautiful.
. . How strongly I wished I could keep seeing his performances. But it was impossible dream since I live in Japan now, I don't live in London any more like before. I didn't expect he would leave so fast. So I was upset when I found his official last performance would be on the 1st December. I thought I have to go and see his performance once again. However I couldn't take my long holiday to go to London, I stayed there only four days, yes actually it was too hard trip physically. However now, I am happy from the depth of my heart that I was able to see it.
. . Yes it was sooo emotional show and his really fragile acting and very beautiful singing were truly phenomenal. But what I was most impressed by was his ballet. Firstly, his movement after Shine (before he shouted "Granma!") was very gracious and forceful. He moved concentrating all his nerves on his arms, legs and body. He seemed to realise he began to love the ballet as Billy. His movement had very profound meaning in the musical. I felt Olly said "I wanna be a ballet dancer.". That scene is very important to me, because it shows that something about ballet grows in Billy's mind. I think Olly also understood it was important scene for Billy.
. . And then, at the end of Solidarity, I was just moved by his happiness of dancing the ballet. His big big smile and joy strongly struck me. I felt the theatre was full of happiness. I have never experienced such atmosphere at the theatre. I couldn't help feeling my excitement.
. . He showed how much he loved the ballet in Swan Lake as well. His poses with the wire in the air was so beautiful and gracious. Yes there were so many highlight for me, but at his ballet, Electricity was the most impressive scene. I didn't expect that I was able to see such beautiful and authentic ballet from BETM. It was the most genuine and glorious ballet I have ever seen in BETM. (I have seen BETM so many times since September 2005, and have seen all of Billys.) Only three months passed from when I saw him before, but his fault of arms had been set straight and his ballet had improved so much. It was only three months, I couldn't believe it! He must have trained so hard.
. . Also he did some really difficult "Pas"(movement). Especially "attitude fouette(turn)" he did after Fouette two times was absolutely great, fantastic and perfect!! It is really really difficult but my friend who has seen his performance so many times told me it was the first time he did in Electricity. He must have been nervous but he did it perfectly. I can't believe it, he is only 13 years old. Also his Arabesque, Jete and Chaines were so fabulous and amazing. I really loved seeing his move for preparation for last fouettes. When he did "A La Seconde" slowly and carefully from his fifth position of legs, I felt like the clock stopped for a moment. That moment cadenced his Electricity.
. . During Electricity it was blissful moment. Through the performance, every his movements had some sort of meaning. Hmm sorry I saw it with my heart, not see with my head. So it is difficult to explain in word... I think he did it on his own will. He danced like drawing a picture in the air, like making a story and like singing a song.
. . I think Matthew and Olly both are not only beautiful dancer but also can capture audience's heart. Their dancing bring something to our mind. I think Matthew's dancing was soulful and inspiring, and Olly's dancing was fascinating and appealing. For me it was really pleasure to see their performances.
. . I was thinking why I so love their Billy. And then I found it is because they were not only very sensitive actors and stunning singers but also dancers who love ballet genuinely. I think Billy is in chaotic state, and feels sorrow and grief every day. However he finds a ray of light in the darkness in his mind. The ballet brings to him such joy, happiness, contentment and freedom he has never felt. Billy loves ballet genuinely. And Matthew and Olly were the same as Billy. They have sincere love to ballet, so they know Billy's feelings exactly, I guess. I felt I was struck with their joy to dance.
. . Oh this post is too long... sorry but, one more thing, I would love to add. It was the first time I cried to see Angry Dance. How emotional it was. His heartsick tap and sequence with gasps were full of sorrow and pain. I felt a constriction in the chest. In the interval, I couldn't stop my tears, because I was just sad that I would never ever be able to see such an incredible Angry Dance.
. . When I saw his dancing photo before he debuted, I thought he must be a beautiful dancer. He looked like a "danseur noble", so I guessed he might be a dancer who can only dance beautifully. But I was wrong. He is a ardent dancer who can explain his burning emotions and also his very sensitive emotions by dancing. He is such a marvelous dancer who can move audience's heart.
. . As dancer, his choice that he will leave from BETM so fast is right, I suppose. Particularly for kid dancer, the right training during growing and developing muscularly is very important. I guess the experience that he performed in front of a lot of audience as a leading player would make him a greater performer, and he must have learnt many things from it. For those reasons, I am sure he is going to be a great ballet dancer, like he said that "I wanna be a ballet dancer.".
. . I have only seen Olly's performances three times. However I will never forget them. As a fan of BETM, being able to see his Billy was a huge happiness. And also, as a fan of the ballet, being able to see such a gifted dancer was deep delight. Olly's ballet make me happy truly.
. . How I wish I could see his truly last performance as Billy today. But I am not there.
. . Dear Olly, all the best wishes for a bright future. I very look forward to seeing your ballet pieces some day.

Irishboi, 15 December 2007
. . First chance to get online since Ollys final show on Saturday. Its been a really hectic few days.
. . I dont want to review Ollys performance, quite simply because I cant find the right words to use. Anything that I would try to say would either come across as cheesy or cliched and I dont want that.
. . All I know is that for some reason since I walked out of that Theatre on Saturday I didnt have the same intensity or love for the show that I had when I walked in. Its hard to explain but in someway knowing that I would never be able to witness that boys grace and lets be honest genious again leaves me with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach that I really never saw coming. I have a hard time putting into words what I am feeling.......I watched the show on Saturday with tears in my eyes the entire time. My friend was with me and I couldnt even talk to him. He tried to make conversation but I wasnt interested.
. . I didnt even want to hang around afterwards. I just went back to my friends place and lay down and watched X Factor. Its weird I was watching these 3 acts in the final of this huge competition with all the adulation and indeed money that is coming their way and all I could think was that none of them has the X Factor, but that young man from Devon who lit up the stage that afternoon had.
. . Im not doing a very good job of explaining myself. Im just really sad that I will never get to see Olly in BETM again. After tonight I think it might be awhile before I can bring myself to go back.

VaRus, 5 July 2008
. . Corey Snide's Last Night on 5 July was the most magnificent show in many respects. I have to say it was perceived by me as quite "conceptual". I will try to characterize it in comparison with Oliver Taylor's portrayal. It makes sense since for me their interpretations are at opposite poles. So here is my very subjective (and simplistic) Tale of Two Billys.
. . To begin with, I believe that Last Nights - being because of the farewell specifics more crisp and showy - magnify those basic features which might look not so articulated in regular shows. Thus, no wonder that Olly's memorable Last Night was so utterly heart-wrenching for everybody in the house (and I, for one, sitting there was remembering that definitive Dostoevsky's sentiment "The whole world is not worth a single tear of a child") - he, probably inadvertently, was testing to the limits his radical interpretation of Billy's character as a somewhat hopeless fight of a complicated talented boy against not only that unsympathetic world but his inner demons too. Corey's Last Night was completely different. Contrary to some Forum members' impressions I did not see many tears from the audience. Of course as the story was the same there were some tears shed in all the appropriate touching moments. However the prevailing emotions were joy and admiration of the great winning talent throughout, and these highly positive emotions were not derivative from show's multifaceted fabric (as in Olly's case) but the very essence of it. Chris-Tony's little gig (in the farewell scene with Billy) when he'd pulled out from his pocket his two fingers symbolizing that "V" figure has just inadvertently summed it all up.
. . So in distinction with psychologically and emotionally convoluted Olly's portrayal, the essence of Corey's interpretation looked pretty straightforward: it's a pure and simple celebration of power of an optimistic talent. To make connections with some generic stereotypes (which I always tend to do) I am going even further in my schematic formulation: I would say that Corey's was a very American interpretation in its spirit - his Billy'd found that he possessed a talent and had a dream, then he just fulfilled that dream overcoming all the difficulties with that trademark smile and humour, shining all the way through and enlightening everything and everybody around him - including the public. No wonder that with such a showy and uplifting portrayal he became so popular and loved by everyone!
. . Of course, all the trials and tribulations built into the story were there but they didn't mean that much as in Olly's Billy case. The latter was not able to adapt to the harsh surrounding and needed an escapist world; Corey's Billy didn't even think about "adapting", leave alone fighting - quite opposite, he somehow just knew that he's destined to win and at the end that hostile world itself had to adapt to him because it's just impossible to resist his talent, energy and charms! Being a spectator and therefore a witness of that Billy's unstoppable journey I was not worrying about him and his future - I just observed him with admiration. No heavy and controversial feelings at all which I've had in plenty in Olly's case (no Dostoevsky - maybe Mark Twain with his ever optimistic Huck Finn).
. . Probably, calling Corey's "an American Billy" is not exactly a revelation. So let me stir up a bit of controversy - this means that poor Olly with his portrayal will have to endure another round of unfortunate associations at my hands (probably, for the last time). I would've gone quite far (to Far East, actually) and made connections with samurai culture famous for its outrageous blend of beauty, melancholy and aggression (remember the title of that classic anthropological book about Japan "The Chrysanthemum and The Sword" expressing that idea so graphically?) but it would've been too much even for me. But once I've already had Dostoevsky-ish allusions here (not mentioning "Swan Lake" connection which is always in the place) I cannot help myself but to attach to Olly's portrayal the "Russian" label. Those who read some Russian classics describing a quintessential young Russian man (Leo Tolstoy's autobiographical novels Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, for instance) will easily recognize a familiar romantic silhouette set against the realistic background. Or - if one needs not literary but a real fate without going far from BETM - just remember Petr Tchaikovsky's life.
. . I can even imagine how "the Russian Billy" would've asked his American counterpart those "eternal Russian questions": "we are equally talented and hard-working; so why on earth you are so optimistic, happy and destined to be successful - while I'm self-conscious, confused, sad and suffering from my own inner demons? Why I'm not thinking about a happy life and success but just want to escape from the severe reality?". After such the erotesis Russian people usually start to remember the titles of two other classical novels - "Who is to blame?" and "What shall we do?" - but never know the answers. Well, perhaps it is quite artificial on my part to put those Russian doomed questions rooted so deep into the ground of the national character on shoulders of a young dancing boy (be he a character or a performer). But that's the direction where I was lead by this Tale of Two Billys and Two Talented Performers with Very Distinctive In-div-id-u-al-iti-es who did manage to express both themselves and underlying concepts of the BE story so powerfully.

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