If you wanna dance…….dance!

Thursday night was absolutely one of the best nights I have ever had. That is a bold statement, I realize but truly, I have never had such a fun, motivating, and all around amazing time in a very long time. 

Background:I work for a merchandise company and sell souvenirs for the Broadway show Billy Elliot. We (myself and the other associates) have been working since the first night of previews and have been talking about opening night, wondering if we would get to go to the party. 

Before I go any further let me say that we saw the final dress rehearsal for the show (we were invited) and it was fabulous. Most merchandise companies let their employees watch the shows when they are working their shifts because you only really sell during walk-in, intermission, and walk-out. Ours doesn’t let us do that and we don’t understand why but one of the ticket takers told us we were welcome to come watch on our nights off. I saw the show again about a week and a half before opening, and again, it was amazing. 

Anyway, this ticket taker’s name is Ed and he is just one of those people you can’t help but like. So, we talk to him when we’re working and he told us that he would keep his eye open for extra invites because sometimes on opening night he comes across them. 

THE NIGHT:

I showed up to theatre at 5:30pm and met up with four fellow employees and one of their boyfriends. We watched the red carpet arrivals: Rosie O’Donell, Kevin Spacey, James Lipton, Elton John (he composed the music to the show), Stephen Daldry (he directed the show here, in London where it first started, and in Austrailia), John Stamos, some kid from Ugly Betty, Barbara Walters, and “Anthony” (don’t know his real name) from Sex & The City. Ben Stiller came later but I didn’t see him. 

Once everyone was inside we made our way into the lobby (mind you, non of us had tickets) but we know the staff so no one was going to accuse us of loitering. I’m about to sidetrack a little but it will make the next thing I write make sense. 

Sidetrack: Stephen Daldry (director) obviously was around the theatre a lot during previews because for those of you who don’t know previews is when the show is open for the public to buy tickets to and watch but is still being worked on. A lot of things can change between first preview and opening night based on audience reaction. So whenever we saw Stephen around, usually going through the lobby to take  smoke break during the show, we would say hi. He’s really nice but usually very focused so nights that he said something unusual or besides “hi, how are you” were funny for us.

Back on track: Stephen walked into the theatre and recognized all of us and came over to greet us. He seemed so happy to see us there…..it was really funny and kind of awesome.

So, some of us got the few extra tickets from the box office (ie the box office gave them to us). I was surprised by that but it was really nice. I didn’t take one because there weren’t enough and I kind of figured Ed would let us watch anyway. And he did. Christine and I were without Tix and we definitely still watched the show. We didn’t see it from the very beginning but both of us have seen it twice before. Obviously we saw almost the entire show though. 

The show: It was the BEST performance of a show I have seen in a long time and definitely the best I had seen that show. The energy was incredible, the acting was so wonderful, it was just amazing. There are some very touching moments in this show and just thinking about them, I can get emotional. There are three boys who alternate playing the role of Billy. The first two times I went I saw David Alvarez perform, on opening I saw Trent perform (he also did the show in London for a while). Kiril Kulish also plays Billy and I have not had a chance to see him perform live yet but I am very anxious to. Trent was wonderful and I liked seeing the differneces between him and David. 

Curtain call: The curtain call for this show is long and unlike any other I have seen but I really enjoy it. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to ruin it for you because you MUST see this show but it’s really just fun. At the very end of the curtain call the boy who played Billy that night comes onstage alone but for opening all three Billys came out and it was so great to see them the recognition they so deserved. I can’t even explain to you how talented they all are. It’s ridiculous. Then there was one last company bow and of course Elton John came out and bowed with the company, too. 

Side Note: Working in the lobby I have seen cast members here and there but mostly the “Billys” as they have tutoring and so (although not so much lately) were in and out a lot. They are hilarious, teenage boys…so down to earth and fun, and don’t even realize how much people admire them. I just love seeing them around…it’s very refreshing. They are all talented and all trained extensively in dance. Acting, singing, accents, were all new to them (Trent did the show in London but still, he only learned all that stuff when he did the show there, not before). Anyway, it’s just fun to see them around. Everyone on the merch team loves them. One Saturday I was working and Trent was performing. David and Kiril went through the lobby to get a soda and came back. On the way back up to tutoring They stopped at the booth and David asked me for his free t-shirt. He wasn’t actually owed a free t-shirt then and I couldn’t give him one but they are always bugging the merch people for free stuff….it’s awesome because they are paid really well to do this show. Anyway, we were talking and I told him I couldn’t give him one and then complimented him on the paperclip necklace he was wearing (obviousl home-made). His response: Thanks. I made it. For FREE!” Priceless! Kiril kept saying “David, we have to go upstairs, our tutor is going to be so mad.” and David would go “no, just another minute.” Such boys…..love it!

The Party: At intermission we still weren’t sure if were going to the party. We had not been invited through the merch company (although they claim they tried to get us invites) but we knew Ed had his eyes open for extra invites. He had already given his to Ryan because he is kind of over the party stuff by now. We needed 5 more invites. So, we all caught up with each other at intermission and Ginno pulled out 5 invitations Ed had given to him. We were SO EXCITED!!! Christine and I both ran and gave Ed hugs. 

So, we got to the party, checked our coats and bags and continued walking in. When we first walked in we saw the arrivals area where the cast and celebrities get their press photos taken. They were in the midst of that when we arrived. The venue seemed nice….high ceilings, wood floors, all that jazz. So we are walking towards a larger hall area where there’s dancing and stuff and we kind of stop in the hall just because of people in front of us and walking right past us come ELTON FREEKING JOHN!!! Holy Moly. All I could do was be in awe at that moment….it was insane. So again, we are walking in, we’ve seen the nice front area and we get to the main party area and…”am I dreaming?” It was BEAUTIFUL! The hall was HUGE, there was free gourmet food, open bar, candy cotton, pac man machines, photo booths, huge displays of lovely silver decorations, show decals, colored lights, dance floor and HUNDREDS of people. I have never seen a venue so gorgeous not have I been to a party like that or seen that many people at a party before. It was amazing!

We ate, drank, danced, mingled, took photos of ourselves and with a few cast members. Of course we got a photo with Stephen Daldry. 

The Stephen Daldry photo: So we went up to him and asked him for a photo at one point. He was slightly intoxicated from what I could gather but agreed after giving us all those fun European kisses. Except that some of us (not me) ended up with kisses on the lips…it was really funny. He wanted to get a drink before the photo and then was bombarded with a lot of people so we didn’t get the photo then. So, later that night, we went up to him again and again were greeted with kisses (this time the lips were unavoidable) and we got our photo. I wonder if remembers that. haha:)

One of my favorite moments of the night was later on in the evening when we were all out on the dance floor. I looked over and I think every single kid from the show was in a huge group just dancing like there was no tomorrow and jumping around and having so much fun. It was a great image and I took a picture that should be on facebook). So before the night ended we all posed and took pictures in the arrival area where the press had been before. We also got to talk to Greg Jbara who plays Billy’s dad and has done a lot of Theatre and TV/film work. He is so nice and down to earth and it was great chatting with him. When we first approached him for a picture he decided we should take it “myspace profile picture” style where you take the picture of your self. So we all gathered round and he took it. We also took more formal ones but I thought that was fabulous. I had SO MUCH FUN! Just what I needed after job and money stress it was nice to have a completely care free night. On the way out we all got souvenir programs of the show as our parting gift. They are beautiful. The venue started kicking us out around 2:15am or so. I was surprised to be honest, I thought a party like that would just go on and on but once I got on the train I realized just how tired I was and the cast had a show the next night so it was probably for the best. The kids from the show were all still there, too. They were taking more photos just for fun in the press area. I think everyone would have kept going if they let us. I also think it’s awesome that the 7 year olds partied until 2:00am.

Conclusions: This night is EXACTLY what I needed. I love this show so much and part of the reason I love seeing the kids around the lobby and at the party is because it reminds me of the family that is created in the process of making theatre. They have such a bond and seeing the kids around gives me a little glimpse of that and reminds me of why I love theatre so much. It’s especially nice since I am living far away from home for the first time. I like seeing other families even though I miss mine. The energy of the show and the absolute joy of the party, not because it was a party, but because it was a tiny glimpse into a theatrical family, reminded me why I’m here and how badly I want this. I want to be on stage more than anything else. I want to act, sing, dance, have that theatrical family. I think what is so great and completely bitter sweet about theatre is that you create something so beautiful and create this family, and make such amazing friends and have the time of your life knowing it won’t last forever and that’s okay because you move on a better person with great friends knowing that at least for a moment you were part of something so wonderful and moving. I just love it so much and I think being in New York, trying to find a day job, and budget, and feeling like everything is always about money I never forgot what I wanted, but I forgot how badly I wanted it and why I wanted it. Being on the merchandise team for Billy Elliot, even though I didn’t do anything directly with the show, I feel like maybe in some way I am attached to a theatre family. Obviously I am not attached the same way the cast is but having a window to see them through is really nice and I feel attached because of how it has motivated me and now whatever happens I can look back so fondly and know that I at least gave it my all. I love being in the theatre and having this show to watch and to watch it grow and watch the characters and people grow. I just love it. I have to be successful as an actress because I won’t be happy doing anything else….the only choice is to make it and I will now move forward with that in mind. I have nothing but determination and desire for Theatre and I will use that to my full advantage. I think the process is beautiful and I love the idea that you can be anything and anyone even for just a few seconds. 

My name is Elizabeth Harvey and I am an actress.

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3 thoughts on “If you wanna dance…….dance!

  1. Elizabeth, hi, I’m Greg Jbara’s webmaster. 🙂

    I really enjoyed reading this blog. You’re a good writer —
    It really comes through, what a great time you had.

    Best to you in all your future endeavors.
    Break a leg!

    – Barb

  2. Elizabeth,

    I am a long time fan of “Billy Elliot,” first in London and now in New York, and I wanted to thank you for that wonderful account of your experience with the show and the great time you had on Opening Night. Needless to say, I am totally envious!

    Best of luck with your acting career.

    Ellen

  3. I’m of huge fan of the show and I just wanted to drop a note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your blog entry about opening night. I fell in love with the show in London when I was living there doing an internship, and I guess it was sort of my family in a way also…it was nice to have something to feel connected to while living so far away from home. So anyway, I totally relate to your feelings about the show and I’m sure I’ll run into you around the Imperial sometime. 🙂

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