Howway, our Billy, it’s been a long time … in fact it’s so long since I first saw Billy Elliott, George Maguire one of the original Billys has grown up and I’ve been able to review his adult work. So it was a treat to go back and see how it is, ten years on.

It is the kids that keep it fresh. I wondered if there had been changes to the choreography over the years because I didn’t remember quite so much rap and acrobatics, but Bradley Perret‘s performance was splendid, and if Tomi Fry playing Michael doesn’t want a dance career, he could have an alternative as a stand-up comedian.

The things that work best are the letter from Mam which still has the audience fumbling for a Kleenex, the flying ballet, and Billy’s audition to ‘Electricity’ but you do miss the full-strength T-Rex ‘I Love to Boogie’ from the movie, and by comparison Elton John’s pastiche version is pale and sickly as a Geordie with miner’s lung, like.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about why British musicals, particularly those developed from popular films seem to fail, and Billy Elliott is held up as a shining example of success and longevity in the face of an ailing Made in Dagenham, or Betty Blue Eyes or From Here to Eternity.

Made in Dagenham is an interesting comparison because it’s a similar high-investment production based on a story about an industrial dispute which in its way was as unsuccessful as the 1984 miners’ strike. There are urgent lessons to be learned, because Pride, the 2014 Matthew Warchus film about gay support for the Welsh protests against pit closures may also be turned into a stage musical.

Like Billy Elliott, Pride demonises Margaret Thatcher as though she alone were responsible for the exhaustion of the coal seams, and the number where the miners carry a giant puppet effigy of her with ‘hate’ tattooed on her knuckles and sing with glee about her death already feels crude and old: Pride will need to be a lot smarter than that.

Whilst the kids are the life force of the production, there has been a significant degree of economising in the adult cast like so many long runners including Phantom and Les Mis.  So with the exception of Ruthie Henshall – a slightly over-Cheryl-Cole’d Mrs Wilkinson but with the same glorious age-defiance as Joanna Riding in Pajama Game and still able to turn cartwheels in leg warmers in her late forties – this is a West End debut for many of the other principals and there are no recognisable names. Remembering the pathos and quality in Tim Healy’s performance as Billy’s father, it seems a shame.

It also feels long.  At 2 hours 55 it really does keep everyone up way past bedtime.