A PERENNIAL tale of struggle, anguish and resilience fitted to a soundtrack scored by the nation's finest composer, Billy Elliot was already a global triumph before Old Vic Production's expansive team set up at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre.
The story about an 11-year-old boy from Everington Village, County Durham, unfit for boxing but astonished by ballet and his struggle to convince his father and brother of its importance as they battle with against the tumultuous mining strikes across 1984/85, was made famous by Jamie Bell, Julie Walters and co during the 00s and was a blazing success on the silver screen.
But what followed has been nothing short of staggering.
Billy Elliot the Musical, is every theatregoers' dream. Music by Elton John, a cast of adept shakers and singers, more lights and flamboyance than a multi-million pound Superbowl show and a story drenched in agony, but ultimately inspirational. It's all there.
In the show's lead is Emile Gooding; the multi-talented 11-year-old that even at such a young age managed to hold a room better than those five times his age. Despite his endearing Geordie twang, astounding moves and pre-teen angst fluttering his temperament, Gooding's greatest gift, much like some of his female ballet lesson companions, was his ability to dance badly. As an audience, we know this boy is talented, but to actually convince us he may actually be terrible at first, for an professional dancer is perhaps the greatest trick. Surely here, on the south coast a star has been born.
Aside from the incredible songs - 'Solidarity' an infectious number that saw the miners and police do battle and the wrenching 'The Letter' that explored Billy's relationship with his departed mother, just two immense highlights - the setting was vast.
Skits involving a mammoth Margret Thatcher, a Nazi-saluting transvestite dressed appropriately as the Iron Lady, dancing clothes and deceptive 'scabs' being mocked. It was like Broadway on Commercial Road.
But for all the glamour this musical provides, it's a cast production. So many funny, sobering characters raise their voices before simmering away. Andrea Miller's forgetful Grandma, Mr Braithwaite - the cloistered piano player - performed by Daniel Page and Leo Atkin's George, the aggressive boxing teacher - all supported the show's main leads.
Billy's dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson - played by experienced songstress Annette McLaughlin - was stereotypically northern. Her dry humour and reluctance to embrace only diluted as her relationship with her star pupil developed. Ultimately even Billy's Dad - given life through Martin Walsh's blunt character - was won over by her enthusiasm for dance.
Sometimes you read a book, then watch the film and it's a let down. Sometimes the same happens when a film is switched to the stage - and vice versa. But nothing prepared me for this. And although the musical is over, at least it's on for another few nights in Southampton yet.
Billy Elliot is on at The Mayflower Theatre until March 4.
For more information visit mayflower.org.uk/Whats_On/BillyElliot2017.