Review: Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company’s production of Billy

Billy, performed at the Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield.
Billy, performed at the Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield.
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Musical comedy Billy is a show that is rarely performed by amateur companies in this part of the country - no doubt due to the lack of performers able to portray the diverse characters and accents or the technicalities required to stage it.

No such problem for Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company whose dazzling production is pure ambrosia.

Cracking characterisations see a working-class Yorkshire family transform into an uppercrust Home Counties clan at the click of the fingers.

Army personnel and a Marilyn Monroe lookey-likey march out of a wardrobe and a Las Vegas-style staircase lights up as the main man walks down it to join in dance numbers as good as any you’ll see on Strictly.

The cast sing their hearts out, dance up a storm and wring as much comedy as possible out of the story of a likeable daydreamer in a dead-end job who juggles three girlfriends.

Joseph Walker is awesome in the lead role of Billy Fisher, excelling in the challenges which the part presents. He mines so much comedy gold out of the character particularly in the stand-out number The Witch’s Song in which Billy mocks his prim and proper fiancé Barbara (beautifully played by Vicky Haigh).

The rival for his affections Rita is played by Danni Hibbert, who looks just like a young Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street in her leopard-skin top, black leather jacket and killer heels, A great contrast to straightlaced virgin Barbara, Rita is a rough diamond who has been around the block a few times and has rotten luck when it comes to men.

Katie Mather gives a lovely characterisation of Liz, the ideal girl for Billy who shares his zest for life and spontaneous approach - but the big question is, does she get her man?

Getting plenty of laughs out of the audience are Billy’s family, played by Gina Townend in the role of plain-talking mum, John Crowther as oppressive dad and Debbie Mather cast as poorly gran. Billy uses his daydreaming as an escape mechanism from the constant nagging, transporting his family to aristocratic affluence where kidneys are served for breakfast on a silver platter and gran smokes a big cigar. Back in the real world, gran is having a funny turn (an hilarious performance from Debbie) while mum and dad are so caught up in bickering with Billy that they don’t even notice!

One of the most moving parts of the show is where Billy teams up with a councillor who is reflecting on what life used to be like in their village. David Jefferson, playing Cllr Duxbury, gives a lovely performance of the song It Were All Green Hills.

Of the songs, perhaps the best known is Billy’s signature song Some Of Us Belong To The Stars - and few can argue with this after watching such a spectacular production.

Billy, directed by Adam Walker with musical direction by Anna Wright and choreography by Claire Harriott, continues at the Montgomery Theatre until Saturday, June 20.