'Billy Elliot: The Musical' headed to Wharton


To actor Cullen Titmas, “Billy Elliot: The Musical” is a production of dream-like proportions.

“It’s a story of people following their dreams and aspirations, no matter what you have to give up to do it,” Titmas said.

The plot tells the story of Billy, a boy who discovers his talent for ballet by accident and faces adversity in a low-income society while pursuing his new dream of dancing. Titmas plays Billy’s brother, Tony, in the touring musical, which premieres Jan. 15 at Wharton Center.

“People can relate to Billy’s character, who is a child that has a gift for ballet, and a teacher takes him under her wing,” Titmas said. “He wants to get away and follow his passion, get out of a life of despair.”

With music written by Elton John, the production takes place in the U.K. during the miners’ strike in 1984. Bob Hoffman, Wharton Center’s public relations manager, said he fell in love with the musical after seeing it in Indianapolis last year.

“It’s an incredible story; (it’s) really powerful,” Hoffman said. “A lot of people had dreams and ambitions, and a lot of us had stumbled upon them not knowing what to do with it … in life, we do that all the time.”

For Titmas, the unique blend of inspiration and raw emotion is what makes the production unique.

“What’s fascinating about the show is that it has a darkness about it mixed with that uplifting, lighthearted story,” he said. “The dark side of it shows the struggle of this low-class mining community trying to survive and put food on the table mixed with the uplifting story of this kid.”

Although interdisciplinary humanities and common theatergoer junior Christine Scales never has seen the musical, she said she has heard only positive remarks.

“First of all, I’ve heard that it’s an entertaining show and that the music and dancing are really good,” she said. “I think that a lot of the themes of the show would appeal to students who are figuring out what they want to do with their lives and what truly makes them happy.”

In the end, Titmas said he hopes the audience will be touched by the emotional roller coaster captured within the story.

“It is a unique show in the way that it’s written — it does a good job of leaving you at a high and dumping you in the darkness,” he said. “People (are) going to be touched in some way … As an actor, I always want to touch someone in some way emotionally.”

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