Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Dance Party: Would You Pull That Crap With Annette?

Annette Funicello's death this week, after a long battle with multiple sclerosis, should have inspired this week's Dance Party. 
Annette Funicello may be dead, but that does not give her
the right to star in this week's Dance Party.

But as I sat down to compose this entry, I realized that I had already written a piece on Annette and the Beach Party film genre, and really had nothing more to say.  Go here for that Dance Party, which I wrote in the dead of winter a few years ago, when everybody was dreaming of the beach.
I have resisted the temptation to present a musical number from Disney's Babes in Toyland.  You're welcome.
This week's Dance Party, then, is inspired by this great lady of the musical stage:
Margaret Thatcher
You didn't know the Iron Lady appeared in a musical?  Well, technically, she didn't, but her voice did.  And her presence is felt throughout one of the big musical hits of the 2000s:

To start at the very beginning (a very good place to start), in 1984 Thatcher began the process of disposing of state run mining interests, closing many mines and selling off many more to the private sector.  Mining unions called a strike, which caused massive unemployment and misery in England's mining towns. 
The right honourable MP from Hampstead and Kilburn, the artist formerly known as Glenda Jackson, went viral this week with her condemnation of Thatcherism, which crippled her districts and others in the 1980s.
Thatcher, being the epitome of a true conservative and thus not caring a bit about working class folk, stood her ground, eventually breaking the power of the labor unions and plunging her country into recession. 
She may have devastated large portions of her constituency, but she didn't stop there.  Her deregulation of the financial sector is a direct antecedent to the current economic crisis which has engulfed the globe.
No one can credibly deny that Thatcher created an economic crisis for the working class, but out of such misery, sometimes art is born. 
Lads don't do ballet. But this one did.

The film Billy Elliot depicts the effects of Thatcher's policy on a community in northern England. Released in 2000, the indie film became an unexpected international hit.  Several years later, the film's director and writer teamed up with Elton John, whose score to The Lion King convinced people that he was a composer of musicals.

Billy Elliot the musical was a big hit in London in 2005 (it's still running) and when it hit Broadway, it swept the Tony Awards. 
Billy Elliot made some Tony history in 2009.  Did the show win 10 awards, or 12? All three kids who alternated in the title role were jointly nominated and won (the conjoined twins from Side Show were similarly nominated in 1998, but they did not win).  This was not a tie vote;  technically, the three shared the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, though this picture shows all three boys holding a trophy. I suppose it's the same as a full production team winning Best Musical, but it's the only instance where performers shared the Tony for a single performance.  Look for a repeat of this situation this year, when the gals who alternate as Broadway's newest diva, Matilda, are nominated.
Incidentally, Billy Elliot's score features a comic number called "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher," in which the desperately poor look hopefully for the day of the woman's death. 
This Act II opener caused some trouble this week for the London production of Billy Elliot. Thatcher's death forced a vote at the theatre:  did the audience want to hear this number, in which everyone longs for Maggie's death?
The creators have often been asked if the number would stay in the show on the day Thatcher dies.  "We'll sing it twice," one of the writers proclaimed.  Still, this week, the London production's cast actually took an audience poll to see if the viewers wished to see the number.  Only about 20% of the audience voted that the cast remove the song from the performance, so the number went on as usual.  Not even Death can stop a showstopper!

This week's clip comes from the show's presentation at the Tonys.  The number is simply called "Angry Dance," and it surely is one (the original film contains a similar sequence). 
Jamie Bell played Billy in the film. It's not easy for a bloke
to be tough with ballet slippers around his neck.

It's pretty unusual, in my experience, to see a dance number which expresses anger, as dance usually depicts a joyful emotion.  But this kid is certainly emoting all over the place. 
I have never seen this stage version.

You'll have to forgive the bumbling introduction which Elton John gives the piece;  clearly he's not used to performing in front of a live audience. 

And if you listen carefully, amidst the cacophony of the number, you'll hear the Iron Lady's voice.  So, enjoy this raucous number from Billy Elliot;  without Margaret Thatcher, we never would have seen it!