"Billy Elliot" closes Nov. 28 at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre ending a disappointing run of eight months. The buzz is that dirty words are to blame. The big musical, about the young Northern England boy who wants to be a dancer, won 10 Tony Awards on Broadway and opened here last April to sensational reviews. It was expected to run for two years, like "Wicked" and "Jersey Boys." Instead, it's often played to less than 50% of capacity.
Street talk is that families and theater parties stayed away in droves when word-of-mouth circulated about the show's rough vocabulary and background of 1980's English industrial strife. The musical is entirely faithful to the 2000 hit movie upon which it's based, but the film was marketed to adults while the musical has been pitched as family-friendly. If it doesn't past muster in Chicago, it won't past muster anywhere outside New York City, so much of the rough stuff has been cut or rewritten during the Chicago run, but too late. There will be more fine-tuning at the show's next stop, Toronto.
A member of the "Billy Elliot" company believes the show's multi-cultural casting also has been a factor.