Monday, April 12, 2010

Billy Elliot Opens in Chicago

Even though Elton John guesses he has seen “Billy Elliot The Musical” 30 or 40 times in New York, Australia, London — and, as of Sunday, Chicago — the 63-year-old music icon admits to getting teary-eyed every time.

“It never fails to get me — especially at the end,” said John, who composed the score for “Billy Elliot,” on the red carpet before the show's highly anticipated opening night at The Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St.). “It always makes me very tearful because of the sacrifice the miners made. I never get fed up with it.”

Chicago chef Rick Bayless and Jesse Jackson Sr. were both on hand for Sunday's opening (Jackson seemed to balk when asked to name his favorite John song), as was nearly every major Chicago media outlet, joined by autograph seekers and at least one fan who appeared to be weeping. John arrived at his seat with Oprah Winfrey, whose Harpo Productions had cameras at the event.

Of course, Sir Elton isn't the only reason for all the “Billy” buzz. The Stephen Daldry-directed musical, which began previews in Chicago March 18, won 10 Tonys in 2009 and was declared “The best musical of the decade” by Time magazine. (Perhaps you saw that quote on the ads around the city?)

Why, in John's opinion, is the show such a big hit?

“Because it says so much about someone's fight to become who they want to be,” he said.

John won't be playing Wrigley Field again this summer but will perform at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates on Thursday. Still, it's clear he thinks pretty highly of the Friendly Confines and his experience there last summer.

“It's like going to church,” John said. “It's the only place to see baseball, really.”

Take that, Fenway!

- Chicago Tribune

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