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Boy Ballets up to the Barre in Billy Elliot the Musical

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Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

If the son of a Geordie coal miner can become a ballet dancer, anyone can. That's how you'll feel after seeing the touring production of Billy Elliot the Musical, playing through June 19 at the Winspear Opera House. On opening night, people left the show singing and dancing like giddy fools across the plaza. It makes you feel that good, this story of a motherless kid in Northern England who discovers how good it feels to dance his troubles away.

Like the 2000 movie it's based on, the Tony-winning Broadway adaptation was directed by Stephen Daldry. Lee Hall wrote the musical's book and lyrics; Elton John composed the score. It's an enormous show, heaving with rapidly moving scenery, overflowing with bright-eyed tutu'd moppets and banging with John's throbby rock. It's one of the biggest, best Broadway tours to blow through here since Wicked.

The touring production rotates five boys in the role of Billy, whose dream of winning a spot in a prestigious British ballet academy is nearly thwarted by his working-class family. Swiss 13-year-old Giuseppe Bausilio performed Billy on press night and he goes from Dallas right into the Broadway cast. But another little showman in the ensemble here is Griffin Birney, who plays Billy's cross-dressing friend Michael. Their big dance number, "Express Yourself," becomes a child's fantasia as they sing and tap with a chorus of giant frocks.

Broadway veteran Faith Prince stomps around in baggy leg-warmers as chain-smoking village ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson, who discovers Billy hanging back after boxing lessons. She's old-school, like Betty Buckley and Patti LuPone, with a big, expressive face and knockout voice.

Peter Darling's choreography might remind you of the story-dances in West Side Story or Carousel. The dances in Billy Elliot rise so organically from the storyline, whole scenes are expressed without dialogue. Billy's solo audition for the academy is a transcendent moment of pure dance. Hard to believe it's performed by a young teen.

Don't rush out after Billy's exit at the end of the show. The curtain call brings the whole cast back in sparkly costumes for a long, exuberant celebration of happy hoofing.

Billy Elliot the Musical continues through June 19 at the Winspear Opera House. Call 214-880-0202.

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