What makes people enjoy musicals? Personally it seems that everyone I know that loves them imagines themselves as the protagonist, exposed in the limelight. Doesn't everyone have an urge to belt into song once in a while? Why don't we indulge these urges? It seems that people would be happier if only the desire to sing and dance in the middle of a mundane task wasn't so frowned upon. Maybe this is why karaoke is so popular, because, lacking the escape and loss of self that the stage allots to only a select few actors, karaoke gives people the adrenaline rush of the spotlight, however temporarily.
I think that's why I liked Billy Elliot so much. I came into the musical knowing nothing about the history, plot, whatever. I didn't even know it was Elton John's musical. It simply seemed so utterly pertinent... I'm a sucker for stories of revolution, and Billy Elliot is set in the backdrop of the miner's strike in England during Thatcher's time. Billy's father is one of the 200,000 miners on strike, and with the clash of absurd-looking cops and swarthy miners striking batons against newspapers in an epic Capitalist vs. Socialist battle ... was a little boy who just freaking wanted to dance.
And wow, did that boy know how to dance. The character was only 10 years old but performed pirouettes worthy of a mini-Baryshnikov, with occasional jazz and tap. I would probably pay $25 just to see this kid dance for a few hours. Billy Elliot's Chicago run at the Oriental has four kids alternating as Billys, which I think is a pretty ingenious way of not destroying the lives of kid actors. Then again, I'm not sure whether the alternating Billys are kitsch in and of themselves instead of actually being a practical measure but I digress.